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The Independent Culture
Rounders (15), to rent

MORE THAN just a solid, card-table thriller, Rounders marks a partial return to form for John Dahl, the director of the delicious B-movie noir The Last Seduction. Having lost his tuition fees in a poker game with a Russian mobster, law student Mike (Matt Damon) decides he's done with after-hours life as a rounder, or pro card player. Until, that is, his card-sharp buddy Worm (Ed Norton) lures him back to the green baize and lands him in terrible debt.

Damon and Norton hustle a succession of requisitely sleazy bars and Wasp drawing rooms but Dahl ensures the pair sound, as well as look, the part. Flops, high-society, locks and tells - Damon's gormless-looking mug wraps itself around the card talk with the same incongruous fluency he brought to his intellectual grandstanding in Good Will Hunting.

It's Norton, however, who runs off with the acting honours, scene-stealing with such ease, in fact, that the central tension of Damon's character, a good man who is pulled under by his own charity, never quite emerges.

Anyway, the Dahl-of-old would never have given a sucker like that an even break. His cruel streak is sadly absent.