Eventually, we’re let in on the source of the current Foley’s fortune: surveillance software that grew out of computer game programs Jake made with his friends. We’re also told that Jake is getting ready to check out because he’s visiting a guy named Shaman Bill (Down Under cinema wizard Jack Thompson), who talks about mortality with Jake and snaps him out with some kind of truth serum that will come into play later. After exchanges with his second wife (the first died in a car accident, as the truth serum montage showed) and teenage daughter, Jake helicopters to his furnished and rare art-filled house to offer three of his old friends a choice: take a million dollar car or risk five million in chips at a poker game. Only it’s not a conventional poker match. One of the friends is a liar too intimate with a member of Jake’s family. The other is a blackmail victim who is setting Jake up. The one being played Liam Hemsworth (who is 26 years younger than Crowe, making childhood bestie status a little unlikely, but who’s counting) is a suicidal addict. And Jake has just the medicine to make these guys face reality.
Except the aforementioned setup is also in play – a trio of armed robbers are headed to the house to make off with some of that art. Foley and friends, accompanied by a faithful assistant and eventually by Drew, now played by RZA – without an Australian accent, but then again who’s counting – end up in the house’s panic room. Only armed with an automatic pistol with one bullet in it (long story). So they decided to wait for the more heavily armed villains.
But oops, then the second wife and teenage daughter show up. There must be attention, there must be action. Written by Crowe and Stephen M. Coates, “Poker Face” wants to be an awful lot of different things during a commendably short runtime. (It’s an hour and thirty-nine minutes, but the credits start more like an hour-twenty-eight.) The contemplation of the mortality drama, the revenge puzzle, the captivity thriller—they all get a whirl here. And it’s all topped off with the Unified Theory of the Good or At Least Redeemable Billionaire. While you can sense the fun Crowe is having with the camera setups in certain scenes, “Poker Face” is simultaneously a lot and not so much.
In the cinema today.