Liar's Poker

on October 29, 1999 by Francesca Dinglasan
   "Nobody beats me at Liar's Poker," announces Jack (Richard Tyson) to a circle of card players--a remark that also metaphorically applies to his other dealings with members of the group, including the womanizing Niko (Caesar Luisi), the hapless Freddy (Flea) and the enigmatic Vic (Jimmy Blondell). Appearing to associate with Jack as more a matter of obligation than camaraderie, the film follows each character's business dealings with the alpha male, whose volatile temperament, combined with the enormous wealth he's obviously gained from sources other than his day job as a car salesman, imply he has a position as a mob boss.
   Through flashback and flash-forward sequences, it's gradually revealed that Jack's wife and his accountant have been murdered. With motives such as revenge and jealousy abounding, all are suspect of committing the double-homicide until the truth comes out during a fishing trip made by the four at Jack's insistence.
   It's quite evident that almost every aspect of "Liar's Poker," Jeff Santo's directorial debut, is supposed to create an oppressive tension. From the uniformly slow dialogue delivery by the ensemble cast to the Cimmerian soundtrack that thumps incessantly throughout the pic, one gets the impression that a sense of overwhelming dread should be sinking in.
   Disinterest, however, is the more pervasive feeling, with the disjointed chronological sequences forcing the viewer to work harder at following a plot that isn't very compelling in the first place. This lack of a solid story, which Santo plumps up by shooting overlong scenes, works to destroy any vague curiosity that might have been aroused by the moment of revelation as to the murderer's identity. Ultimately, one can't help but agree with Niko's cry of anguish during the fishing trip, "I'm really, really getting f--ing bored!"    Starring Richard Tyson, Caesar Luisi, Jimmy Blondell and Flea. Directed and written by Jeff Santo. Produced by Billy Savino and Jeff Santo. A North Branch Entertainment release. Drama/Thriller. Rated R for language, sexuality and pervasive violence. Running time: 93 min.
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