Roulette has been one of the main draws of casinos for decades and the game has also captured the hearts of punters and filmmakers for its glamour and suspense.
The game is unique in that offers players a chance to join others for a one-off spin, with the tumbling ball rattling into its final destination at the end offering one last piece of drama.
Roulette has featured in many films over the years as Hollywood sought to tap into the suspense, with big money resting on the outcome, usually with characters who couldn’t affordt o lose. All of the films featuring roulette are usually set in glamorous locations at non-UK casinos. This article will provide a short review of some of the best films.
Casablanca, featuring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the leading roles, was a classic film released in 1943.
Bogart plays the leading man Rick Blaine, a stoic ex-pat nightclub owner in Casablanca, Morocco at the beginning of WWII. Despite facing pressure from the local authorities, Rick’s café has become a haven for refugees seeking to obtain letters that will allow them to escape to America. However, one day a former girlfriend of Rick’s, along with her Bulgarian husband, show up at the café. With Ingrid Bergman playing Ilsa, Rick faces some tough decisions as he seeks to help the couple find a way out of Africa.
Casablanca was a big success at the Oscars with three wins at the 1944 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Michael Curtiz. Bogart was nominated for the Best Actor role, but eventually lost out to Paul Lukas.
Casablanca is one of the first to feature roulette and capitalizes on the suspense factor immediately as Rick has to secure a win on the tables to pay for the couple’s exit visa. But Rick needs to keep his reputation with the locals intact, so he has to play a game of wits. Rick tells the Bulgarian man to bet on number 22. Already a friend of the dealer, Rick communicates his plot discreetly and 22 comes up twice to secure the required money for the visas. Rick plays it cool and hugs his former lover, while he encourages them to cash out and leave immediately. The dealer implies that the group are still losing on the night in a last effort to avoid attention. This keeps Rick’s reputation intact and the couple get their escape route secured to the US.
Diamonds Are Forever
The next major film featuring roulette was the James Bond feature Diamonds are Forever and nobody else captures the glitz and suspense of Roulette as Bond. This time 007 is played by Sean Connery, who is on the trail of a diamond smuggling ring, which leads him to Las Vegas . There he finds an evil plot involving a rich businessman named Blofeld.
During the roulette scene, James Bond’s entry to the table stands out for 007’s suave appearance and his charisma, against a backdrop of jewelry and cocktails.
The James Bond franchise has other memorable high-stakes gambling features, such as in the film Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig. Craig is on the tail of a French mathematician and trafficker named Le Chiffre. Once again, the film was shot in another non-UK casino in the Czech Republic, featuring sunshine, glamour, and riches.
The Gambler was released in 1971 and stars James Caan in the leading role as Axel Freed. Freed is the classic gambler in Hollywood style, where he eptomizes the ups and downs of the game. Freed’s addictive personality allows his habits get the best of him at times. In modern times, Axel Freed would likely be a character that seeks out non-GamStop casinos to evade the restrictions that were brought in to protect problem gamblers.
Freed plays a university professor, but outside of is school role, he can’t control his gambling habits. When Freed loses all of his money at the tables, he borrows money from his girlfriend, then turns to his mother for help, before the loan sharks start calling. As the gambling spiral continues, and Freed’s world crumbles, it is reminiscent of scenes that have been playing out in modern day online casinos. In the UK that that has seen the UK Gambling Commission taking a more aggressive approach to regulation.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a film featuring another leading man that is perfect for the casino world in Robert Downey Jr. His own personal story is one of highs and lows, popularity, and charisma, while he has also had his own brushes with excess and vice. Downey Jr and the rest of these leading characters fit the gambling personality so well in that it is frowned upon in society, but these larger-than-life characters were not created to follow the rules and be restricted by a gaming authority. Although it is important to regulate the vulnerable punter, it is a fine line between protection and losing the freedom to pursue your own desires.
Although not a very well-known film, it scooped 5 Oscars and 16 nominations, with Downey Jr. taking the Best Actor prize, while Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan took the Best Supporting Actor and Actress awards.
The film has a twist on the gambling theme because it doesn’t involve an actual casino table, but rather a life-or-death game of Russian Roulette.
Run Lola Run
Another modern-day attempt at the roulette theme is in the film Run Lola Run, which again features a leading character that is living on the edge of life. Filmmakers understand that stretching the boundaries of the character is a selling point for films and it involves yet another story of bad guys, debt, running away, and suspense.
Franke Potente’s Lola gets a phone call from her boyfriend who has lost 100,000 in German Deutschemarks on a subway train ride. But to make things worse, the money belongs to a very bad gangster and she has 20 minutes to find the cash or her boyfriend plans to rob a store for the money.
The plot finds Lola in a casino where she buys a chip worth 100 marks and starts betting at the roulette table. After two wins in a row, she banks 129k marks, which is enough to bail out her boyfriend. At this point, he has discovered that it was a homeless man that took the gangster’s cash and chases him for the money, unaware of her win. This leads to a fatal turn of events, before Lola arrives from the casino and he asks her: “What is in the bag?”