Before his commercial breakthrough with Boogie Nights (1997), writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson made this distinctive drama staring John C. Reilly as a half-bright loser stranded in Reno. Down to his last few bucks, he meets a talented gambler (Philip Baker Hall) who teaches him some tricks and eventually becomes his partner. But his lack of common sense goes from problematic to dangerous when he falls in love with a cocktail waitress (Gwyneth Paltrow). Hall and Reilly, both first-rate character actors, are cast in rare leading roles, and Paltrow is cast strongly against type as a part-time prostitute with a serious lack of street smarts.
Aroview: Paul Thomas Anderson’s cucumber-cool first feature set in the thick of Reno’s casino culture, boasts four superb character-based performances and extended scenes of dialogue that keep you spellbound. Not perfect, but intriguing, provocative and memorable - just the way we like ‘em.