Movie Review: ‘WIN IT ALL’ (2017)
It’s incredibly difficult to do movies about gambling. The conundrum becomes, how to glorify something that can be a harmless form of entertainment, but can just as easily become a vice that destroys lives. Movies set in Vegas have it easier with the glamour and shiny lights. But not all forms of gambling and betting are as exaggerated as movies make them seem. Nowadays simple sports betting sites act as a way to blow steam off for some, but without impulse control, can become an everyday habit as well.
Heist movies seem to always portray the best and glorifies depictions of gambling, while other films have a more difficult time trying to get a protagonist that is a gambler to come off sympathetic and relatable. ‘Win It All‘ is such a movie that fails to resonate due to these problems.
‘Win It All’ is a gambling movie that fails to effectively make the audience care about the protagonist.
The movie opens by showing us our hero, the man with a gambling habit. Eddie (Jake Johnson) clearly loves to gamble, despite being not very great at it. With no prospects, a family that constantly nags him, and a crippling gambling issue, Eddie is basically living life a day at a time. That is until a criminal friend of his leaves a mysterious bag in his care, while he serves time in prison. Eddie is promised a large sum of cash for his services, on the condition that he doesn’t open the bag, ever. Curious, Eddie obviously does to find a lot of money inside Money that he uses to gamble and eventually lose most of it.
Being scared for his life, Eddie decides to ask his brother Ron (Joe Lo Truglio) for help in exchange for a steady job, and cleaning up his life. Slowly paying back the money to the bag, before his friend is released from Jail, Eddie’s life improves in more ways than one. He meets a nice girl. Enjoys his job. All is well. Until his criminal buddy decides to return early, making Eddie frantic to either get the cash back, or run and leave his, now perfect, life behind.
‘Win It All’ tries to be too many things all at once. It starts as a movie about the downside of gambling addiction, then tries to be an indifferent comedy. By the third act it also tries to show a scene of thrilling high stakes poker, but feels like anything but. The execution of scenes and performances feel phoned in and just incredibly flat.
The biggest problem is that the audience is never fully able to connect with Eddie. He is introduced as a good-for-nothing addict, and nothing in the course of the story ever changes our opinion of that fact. Even his relationship with his new girlfriend (Aislinn Derbez) makes us feel more sympathy for her, being a part of his pathetic life, than any redemption towards him. Derbez is very genuine and eager in her role and comes off incredibly charming. Even Truglio, whose usual roles are over the top comic relief, makes an impression here. Ron is the overbearing and cheesy older brother with nothing but good intentions, and Truglio performs him impeccably.
Johnson is a different story altogether. While Eddie is supposed to be a slacker initially, Johnson’s performance feels just as slacked. During the film when Eddie is supposed to have ‘changed his life around’, he still comes off as not caring about any of it, despite dialogue that says the opposite. It’s almost as if the character tries to convince himself of this new life he has, instead of genuinely feeling it himself. This is further evident in the scene prior to the climax.
When Eddie finally has the money to repay his friend, and basically make everything alright, he still tries to screw it up by gambling more. It takes an actual heart attack (or something) to make him stop. So given this, it’s really hard to root for this character. On top of the terrible things that happened to him when he was an addict, he tries to throw it all away by returning to his old tricks. No saving grace. No redemption.
Original Netflix movies seem to have this problem a lot. Where their protagonists are either not developed enough, or not performed properly. Despite casting actors that are highly talented, the makers behind the movie don’t seem to give them enough to infuse the characters with any charm, motivation or even reasoning behind their actions. ‘Win It All’ becomes another in a long line of original feature film Netflix failures.