The Cincinnati Kid

The Cincinnati Kid ★★★

This has such a special cross section of old and new school talent. I did a double take when Joan Blondell came strutting onto the climactic card room set with the same wisecracking energy from Gold Diggers of 1933 and proceeded to shake hands with Karl Malden, Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson, Cab Calloway, Ann-Margaret, and Rip Torn. Also tucked in here is Tuesday Weld, an excellent actress who I will sadly always remember most from that awful BBS movie A Safe Place. Great performance, bad movie. In The Cincinnati Kid, she once again brings the goods to a thankless role. In fact, that's the great tragedy of The Cincinnati Kid. Every single one of these stars deserves a better script. Rip Torn stands out the most because he's a scenery chewing villain with a shooting range in his living room.

It feels like Steve McQueen saw The Hustler and got really, really jealous. Within the first five minutes I thought, "Oh. This is The Hustler but with poker," and that statement only become more true as it played out. It's the same characters. The story beats rush up to you with all the finesse of a first draft outline. It's also been castrated. There is no dramatic oomph, and no poignancy. On top of that, I actively disliked most of the lighting and music throughout. This was a Peckinaph joint until he was fired and replaced by Norman Jewison, so it's pretty messy across the board.

Nevertheless, the big game of 5-card stud between McQueen and Robinson is pretty damn good. There's some nice editing and suspense. I also didn't know how to play 5-card stud and now I do, so that's cool.

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