Poker Face (2022), directed by Russell Crowe and also featuring Crowe in the lead role, does not quite possess the proverbial ace up its sleeve. What it does possess is the appearance of an intelligent thriller; and unlike Poker, bluff can take only so far here. The film has more than its fair share of tangents to establish its story on, and in the end, it seems to be caught in more than two minds.
Poker Face (2022) Summary and Synopsis:
Jake Foley (Russell Crowe) is a gambler and a businessman. His proficiency in riding the luck has made him a billionaire and an avid collector of rare paintings. His gambling muse is Poker. And for that, he is grateful to his childhood buddies. It was the company of Drew (RZA), Mikey (Liam Hemsworth), Paul (Steve Bastoni), and Alex (Aden Young) that helped young Jake find solace through the decks of hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades.
Jake currently lives with his second wife, Nicole (Brooke Satchwell), and his daughter, Bec (Molly Grace). The perennially growing distance between Nicole and Jake is palpable, as is the love shared between Bec and Jake. It has been implied that it has been some time since Jake has met all his above-mentioned friends. Now, when Jake finally has come to an end, in the form of last stage cancer diagnosis, he decides to round his friends up for one last poker night.
Meanwhile, Paul’s elder brother, Victor, who knew all those boys from their childhood and used to bully them, has grown up to become a proper thug. One of his jobs is to smuggle high-priced art to illegal auctions for millions of dollars in profit. Victor (Paul Tassone), via blackmail, coerces Paul to arrange the poker night in such a way that he and his goons can visit Jake’s penthouse on that night. To steal all the rare and valuable paintings Jake has collected.
Before organizing the poker night, Jake has a spiritual awakening and procures poison. Harmless in small dosages but lethal in heavy dosages. Now, with help of his lawyer, Jake gets all his friends in his place barring Drew. All his friends hiding something. The beleaguered-looking Mikey carries a gun sneakily, the politician Paul already sells information regarding Jake’s collection to his smuggler elder brother, and Alex partakes in an extra-marital affair with none other than Jake’s wife, Nicole.
Jake pulls the three of them into a high stake poker game, where he only provides the buy-in of fifty million for each of them. During the game, Drew also joins them. Jake provides each of them with a drink (barring Drew), laced with poison. Just when all his friends start to feel queasy, he reveals his real motive for bringing them together and poisoning them. He wanted them to be truthful to him, as people become in the face of death. Like Jake currently is.
Poker Face (2022) Ending Explained and Themes Analyzed
Why Did Jake Poison His Friends?
As often happens with people who are dealt a sudden curveball in the form of immediately impending death, Jake also takes drastic measures to reconnect with his old friends. Jake wanted to take the safety net of time away from his friends. He wanted to give them the illusion of an immediate end so that each of them confesses to their own truths. Paul reveals his blackmail, and Alex confesses to loving Nicole. Mikey shows the gun and admits that he was planning to take his own life.
Jake then reveals that the poison is not given in lethal doses to any of them. They are all safe. He and Drew organized this to help their three old struggling friends. The struggle is not necessarily monetary. For Alex, it is the guilt of loving his friend’s wife, for Mikey it is addiction. For Paul, well, for Paul it is money mostly.
During all these, Victor and his allies, a goon named Billy (Matt Nable) and an art enthusiast (Benedict Hardie) named Styx, start the home invasion. As Jake and others have no weapon except Mikey’s gun with one bullet, they choose to retreat to the panic room of the house. But their plan of waiting out hits a massive roadblock.
Bec, who only just found out that her father is dying, stormed to the penthouse with her stepmom Nicole. And they immediately come across the ongoing home invasion. Victor and Billy overpower the two women and tie them up, taunting Jake while doing so. Jake, at this point, sees no option but to reveal himself, armed with a one-bullet gun of Mikey.
While Billy and Styx focus on bagging the paintings, Jake tells Victor that the glass he took a sip from is poisoned. Half-truth, as it is but not lethal. But Jake’s bluff works as Victor feels queasy. While Drew, Alex, Paul, and Mikey get into a fight with Billy and Styx, Jake asks Victor to let him get the antidote for the poison, as he himself is also poisoned.
Jake takes a heavy dose in the syringe, and Victor immediately knocks him out and takes the full dose himself. Obviously Jake knew that Victor would do so and that is why he took a lethal dose. As a result, Victor dies and everyone survives.
What Does Poker Represent Here?
Poker here certainly represents an outlook that Russell Crowe infused through the narration of Jake Foley. If you stay long enough at the poker table, you are bound to win eventually. When all his friends were given poorer hands, Jake came as the benevolent dealer. He provides all of them with enough money, and peace of mind, to survive and thrive. He provides them with a better hand. That seems to be the motto Jake channels. He wanted his daughter, and his friends to go by the outlook where it does not matter whether the glass is half empty or half full. As long as you have the conviction to fill it up again.