For writer and director Greg Francis, the bulk of his work has been in television, working on shows like Outrageous 911, FBI: Criminal Pursuit and Wicked Attraction. However, recently Francis made his first steps into film.
Taking on a lot of responsibility in his first indie, Francis wrote and directed a film called Poker Night which was released at the tail end of 2014. The film was financed by Wingman Productions, a company that has released a raft of unmentionable releases since it was founded by aspiring actor Corey Large in 2003. And unfortunately like Wingman’s earlier films, they were unable to get Poker Night much media coverage in the run up to its release.
Thus, Poker Night went undetected by large parts of the film industry. It’s a shame as Francis’s inventive plot has a series of twists and turns that keep viewers hooked throughout. His inclusion of a psychotic masked serial killer is enough to keep horror aficionados content and the cast will certainly please fans of Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad.
Sons of Anarchy stars Ron Pearlman, who played fearless Sons Leader Clay Morrow, took a major role in the film alongside Titus Welliver, who starred as Irish gun trafficker Jimmy O’Phelan in the FX hit show. Alongside them, Francis brought in Giancarlo Esposito, who shot to fame as the infamous fast food turned drug baron, Gus Fring in AMC’s Breaking Bad as well as veteran actor Ron Eldard (Sleepers). But Francis looked to the fledgling Beau Mirchoff for the lead role – the young actor has starred in movies like The Grudge 3, Scary Movie 4 and In the Land of Women prior to his role in Poker Night.
The little press the film did receive upon release was less than flattering. The LA Times said Poker Night deals a poor hand with few high cards.” And while, in parts, the review summarizes the film well, Poker Night certainly wasn’t all bad. The seasoned actors performed as well as could be expected, and Mirchoff shows glimmers of why Francis entrusted the upstart in the lead role.
However, what probably cost the film, the limelight it could have garnered, was the fact it was pigeonholed as a “casino movie,” when in fact it is anything but that. Yes, it does have one of its core scenes around a poker table in Pearlman’s character’s house but it hardly goes into complex poker strategies. Even if it did, there are many figures that would suggest that casino gaming is still as popular today as it was when indie hits like Rounders was released in the height of online gaming in the late 90s. Also, there is potential cross over appeal with many online gaming fans enjoying themed titles showcased on reputable portals such as Gala Casino. The aforementioned site, along with thousand online features a lot of the popular DC movies, thus showing there is a market for a film like Poker Night regardless of whether it was in fact pigeonholed in that specific niche.
The key takeaway here is that for any indie, the road to mainstream notoriety is tough. Without endless streams of funding, films can go undetected regardless of how ground breaking they are if they don’t have the budget to propel them into the limelight. And for Francis’s Poker Night not even enlisting some of television’s recent stars was enough to sway hacks and movie fans to watch his first indie.
You can view the trailer to the movie here: