Shade (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Unbelievably enough, we give two thumbs up to a Sylvester Stallone film!

Scoop's comments in white:

Shade is the best movie Sly Stallone has done in a long, long time. Maybe the best since Party at Kitty and Stud's. It's one of those films that I can't say much about because (1) even slight hints would spoil some of the fun, and (2) it's worth seeing, so it should not be spoiled.

The basic idea is that grifters are constantly working to out-grift one another. The specific grifters covered here are poker players, and the storyline focuses upon a "mechanic" - a hustler looking for the big score. One of the most interesting things about the film is that many card manipulations are shown in real time from above and below a glass table, so that the audience can see how the sting works from the viewpoint of the mark (above the table), then see it again from the viewpoint of the grifter (shot from beneath).

Stallone plays the old master cardsharp who, like a gunfighter, travels from town to town taking on the young guns who want to make a name for themselves. Stallone can beat you playing honest, but if you want to con him, he'll beat you at that as well. Rocky does a good enough job in a laid-back role, but he is not the focus of the film.

If you liked Confidence, you'll find this film very similar, and maybe a bit better. I thought it was quite an effective combination of the more cerebral sting films, like The Spanish Prisoner and Heist, with the more grotesquely violent modern gangster sagas, ala Pulp Fiction or The Usual Suspects. It's not wildly original, but hey, Mamet meets Tarantino - that's not a bad combination at all!

Tuna's notes in yellow:

Shade (2003) is a crime comedy/drama set in the legal and illegal poker games in LA, and is about the world of professional card players, especially crooked ones. It played a few festivals, and had a very limited (one weekend) release, and is now available on DVD.

The story is essentially The Color of Money, but played out with poker rather than pocket billiards. Sylvester Stallone does a decent job in the Paul Newman role, and Stewart Townsend plays the Tom Cruise part. Thandie Newton and Melanie Griffith are love interests and fellow scam artists. It was written and directed by an actual card "mechanic" who also specializes in and close-up slight-of-hand. The original plan was to make this on the cheap, but the script attracted some money, and they ended up making a proper film.


  • Erika Nann Baranco shows her breasts during a cat fight set up as a distraction to cheat a casino at blackjack (based on a real scam).
  • J. Katherine Novy, a friend of the director, shows breasts and buns as a pole dancer.

I don't want to revel any of the plot, except to say that it is all double crosses. The twists and turns were pretty engaging, and the performances were very strong, but the thing that made this special was that the actors did their own slight of hand. Their education included hanging around the magic castle, and they all controlled the deck very convincingly.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.7/10. (Much more appropriate than the 39 at Metacritic)
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a C. Nothing original, and not much characterization, but if you like complicated stings, you will enjoy this film". Tuna says, "If you enjoy scam films, poker films, or slight of hand, you will enjoy this one, but you have to pay close attention to follow the plot. This is a solid C."

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