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Win It All: Another Winner for Netflix

Jake Johnson is the Star of 'Win it All'


Jake Johnson is the star of Win it All

In just a few short years, Netflix has gone from being a simple streaming service for films and TV series to being a major producer of original programming. It has a huge amount of unique content on offer, and with an estimated budget of $6 billion for this year alone, it has given many of the world’s biggest TV and film studios a real wake-up call.

Notable Netflix film successes have included “Beasts of No Nation,” which stars Idris Elba and tells the story of a civil war in an unnamed West African country. To show the sheer range of genres that Netflix are tackling, you also just have to look at “Mascots,” a mockumentary from “This Is Spinal Tap’s” Christopher Guest. The film presents a fly-on-the-wall look at a fictional competition between the mascots of various different sports teams and has a starry cast including Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”) and Oscar Nunez (“The American Office”).

But this isn’t to say that Netflix are infallible as there have also been one or two duds along the way, the highest profile failure probably being “David Brent: Life on the Road.”

However, the same can’t be said of “Win It All” – a surprise smash of the season that received a world premiere at March’s South By South West festival and became available on Netflix in April.

Hilarious and Horrifying

The film tells the story of Eddie Garrett, played by Jake Johnson (“New Girl”) who is a gambling addict. One day, local hard man Michael comes to him with a mysterious duffel bag and asks him to look after it from him while he’s serving a nine-month prison sentence; in return he will receive $10,000 on his release.

Unable to resist the temptation, while Michael is serving his time Eddie borrows $500 from the large amount of cash he finds in the bag and uses it as stake money in a card game. It turns out that he is an expert of blackjack, and he wins big. There is no doubt that his success around the table could inspire people to get involved, luckily 888casino have developed the perfect guide, written by the critically acclaimed gambling author Henry Tamburin, the guide gives those that are new to the game a great chance of thoroughly understanding how to play blackjack.

Spurred on by his success, Eddie continues to play but his luck runs out and ends up effectively owing “the bag” $21,000. Desperate, he pleads with his brother, played by Joe Lo Truglio (“Brooklyn 99”) to give him a job so he can earn enough to make good his losses. His brother gives in and all is going well for Eddie until he gets a message from Michael to say he’s being released early and will soon be round to collect the bag. In a panic, he begs his brother for an advance but is refused so he turns to his gambling counselor for help. The counselor, played by Michael Kay, who also features in the Netflix animated James Bond spoof “Archer,” agrees to get him into a high stakes poker game if he promises that he’ll never gamble again.

The game is very tense with many ups and downs. But in the end Eddie has a great winning streak but collapses from the adrenelin rush he’s experiencing. Next day he wakes up in hospital being tended to by a nurse, Eva, who he’s also been dating throughout the film. He’s released from hospital, now debt free, and goes for dinner with Eva and her parents in a feelgood ending that still has one more twist to unfold in the closing credits – and we’re not going to spoil it here.

What the Critics Say


Netflix Have Kept Their Cards Close to Their Chest

Netflix are notoriously secretive about their viewing figures and the budgets for their productions, so it’s hard to say just how well the film has done for them financially. But the fact that it’s obviously in the low-budget indie tradition suggests the film was relatively cheap to make. This certainly hasn’t affected its popularity as it has a Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes of a very impressive 89%.

The critics themselves have been equally full of praise for the film which was produced using a loosely-written screenplay by Joe Swanberg and Jake Johnson but which also relied very heavily on improvisation from the cast. It’s this spontaneity that led Richard Roper of the Chicago Sun Times to write: “This is such a sharp character study. From the leads to the bit players with one or two lines, everyone in this movie comes across as someone living a real life in a real time and place.”

Richard Brody, writing in The New Yorker, said: “It’s a casually swinging yet terrifyingly tense drama,” whose key themes are: “secrets and lies – of the silences and the deceptions, the cruelty and the shame, that even the great romances of a lifetime can’t avoid.”

It’s also certainly a film that has made writer and director Joe Swanberg even more of a filmmaker to look out for in the future. So it surely can’t be long until he makes an even bigger impression, whether on Netflix or even the big screen.

It’s also certainly a film that has made writer anddirector Joe Swanberg even more of a film maker to look out for in the future. So it surely can’t be long until he makes an even bigger impression, whether on Netflix or even the big screen.

Summary

⦁ Netflix are one of the world’s biggest producers of film and TV with a $6 billiion annual budget
⦁ A number of films have been big audience and critical successes including Mascots and Beasts of No Nation
⦁ A very popular this year has been Win It All
⦁ Written by Joe Swanberg and Jake Johnson with improvisation from the cast, it tells the story of a compulsive gambler who borrows money from a local hard man and uses it as a gambling stake
⦁ He loses a great deal of money and has to win it back at the very last moment in a high stakes poker game
⦁ The film has been highly critically acclaimed scoring 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and receiving excellent reviews from the critics

Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of weekly column “Mr. Television” for Campaign US (www.campaignlive.com). Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

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