Which Casino Films Did Hollywood Get Right?
For thousands of years, civilizations all around the world have developed unique forms of entertainment and recreation. Both ancient China and ancient Greece participated in gaming as a popular pastime, from board games in the Shang dynasty to sports betting at the first Olympic Games in Athens. It should come as no surprise that one of the most popular forms of entertainment today, cinema, continues to explore the rich history and sense of excitement associated with the mythic casino.
Casinos & Film: A Match Made in Heaven
What has been coined as OTT (over-the-top) streaming has taken the at-home entertainment world by hold, headed by companies such as Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu. These companies provide streaming content to users based on popular demand, rather than what’s currently at the box office. In fact, between 2017 and 2018, the number of Americans using OTT services spiked from 153 to 170 million users and one major demand for these services?
The James Bond franchises, based on Ian Fleming’s novels that started with the 1962 film Dr. No attract millions of viewers. In fact, Bond films have earned a total of $7 billion at the box office by combining espionage adventures with the luxurious lifestyle found in a Monte Carlo casino.
However, future films based on gaming may want to take note of the meteoric rise of online gambling. What would Raymond Babbit of Rain Man fame have to say about playing blackjack on a site like Unibet, and what about Rusty Ryan from Ocean’s 11 in regard to calling a bluff in an online poker tournament? While game rules rarely change, the play itself is much like a successful casino film. It’s all about style, confidence, and know-how.
Accuracy Vs. Popularity
While casino films capture the imagination, this doesn’t mean they accurately portray gaming at a casino. For instance, the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is considered one of the greatest casino films of all time. However, the storyline follows the turbulent life and antics of Hunter S. Thompson, and any real punter would be hard-pressed to connect the highly stylized version of Las Vegas presented in this film with any real Vegas action.
Meanwhile, in Martin Scorsese’s 1996 film Casino, viewers are allowed to see the highly elusive and luxurious lifestyle that many link with gaming capitals like Las Vegas. While the story is focused on an anti-hero played by Robert DeNiro, the film offers a much more realistic view of Vegas.
Other classics, such as the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006), are focused around a single game. In this case, Daniel Craig plays Bond, who has to prevent the antagonist from winning a tournament of high-stakes Texas Hold’em poker. Not only did this film portray casino life with class and edge, but it also wove in the high-stakes narrative associated with Fleming’s novels.
It may be easier to examine Hollywood’s love affair with casinos through individual characters. The Rain Man character Raymond Babbit made his wealth by counting cards, which earned the unwanted attention of the casino Babbit where he played at. Also aforementioned is Rusty Ryan from the Ocean’s 11 franchise, who helps his team members spot a bluff in a poker game.
Both of these examples provide hints at the relationship between casinos and Hollywood, which is complex and romanticized. While Babbit makes his blackjack fortune by counting cards, this is a far cry from usual casino standards. Counting cards isn’t illegal as long as an external device isn’t used, but it’s far more likely to make a fortune in blackjack by studying the game and probabilities.
In the adjacent case of Rusty Ryan, learning to spot a bluff is far more realistic than attempting to pull off a heist at the Bellagio. However, many people head to the cinema for the same reason they head to the casino—for an evening of excitement and unpredictability.