When did Vincent Spano find time to direct like this? The words and character belong to Gabrielle Conforti who had experience as a bet runner at a casino, a woman who dashes from card player to card player, hurriedly scribbling their horse race bets before the race starts. She has the look of a bored femme fatale who decided to take a job at the casino, and slowly became weathered by the hubbub, the beat, the ceaseless rhythm of the casino, its patrons, and an atmosphere which would not exist without all these parts in just the right order.
As Angela (Conforti) attends to the whims of each betting man and woman in the casino pit, Spano rushes tracking shot after tracking shot to capture the importance of that one moment, that one bet to be placed that either will bring more money or lose it completely for the person with the open wallet, hoping for what is at times a futile hope. Spano has this real feel for atmosphere, something genuine which was not well known in his acting roles. He and Conforti have absorbed this casino to where it rubs off on us. Suddenly, those monitors, those card tables, those overly colored carpets make us seem like we are there. To feel it just as much as watching it is a feat achieved by many filmmakers, and many know how to sustain it. Conforti’s script sticks to the natural speaking tones of the bettors, Angela’s co-workers, and Vin (Peter Dobson), the gangster to whom she owes money. $30,000. Of course, what passes as tough in Spano’s vision doesn’t come across too well on the screen. At a party where Angela’s taking bets, one guy looks like he could easily crack open some kind of impression of a celebrity that’s been on his mind the entire time. The actor tries to look cool in the scene, but is extremely close to blowing it. Surprisingly, this can all be determined in a party scene which contains the obligatory dance music and pulsing blue strobe lights. I suppose it’s expected near a casino like this.
For all these minutes and all those moments where Angela is panicked, tearing up over the money she owes (and that’s what usually happens when a gambling addiction leads to using other people’s money), Conforti and Spano know exactly who she is, and what this place is that contains every kind of human being you could imagine. The dreamer, the con man, the perpetually unfortunate, all that a casino has stocked in hopes and losses. All of this makes perfect, unobtrusive sense and for all that time, we are truly there. “Betrunner” doesn’t rely on the histrionics of the glamour of Vegas or being in any casino. There’s not that feeling of hoping to win. Rather than being another tourist-attracting commercial, “Betrunner” simply shows it how it means it. We are the most fortunate for having witnessed it.