Four Dogs Playing Poker [DVD]

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Stacy Edwards 4 Dogs Playing PokerAn entry in the recent rash of crooks-falling-out cynical crime-comedy noirs, Four Dogs Playing Poker opens with a robbery at a wedding in Buenos Aires. Five friends pose as staff and guests to penetrate the secret collector’s vault of lecherous father-of-the-bride George Lazenby and walk away with a valuable dancing-girl statue. Back in Los Angeles, the team are visited by their sponsor, hefty guest-star crook Forrest Whitaker, who tells them there’s a question as to whether the statue is on the ship that’s supposed to be smuggling it into the country. If it doesn’t show up they’ll have to cough up a million dollars between them or get killed. To underline the point and in the first of many “it-just-doesn’t-make-sense” plot turns, Whitaker has his men shoot Tim Curry, organiser of the gang, in the leg and then, to show that trying to leave town is a bad idea, has him hung up dead in a meat locker with his feet chain sawed off (offscreen) by the comedy British double-act thugs. An unbelievably complicated scheme is hatched between the surviving four, two couples, whereby they each take out insurance policies that benefit the rest and pick cards and safety-deposit box-keys that identify one of them as the designated murderer and another as a victim. Naturally, suspicions simmer (one character, when asked if she distrusts her friends, replies “all my friends are thieves”) and triple-crosses are hatched. The prolific Olivia Williams, in Lulu wig and American accent, emerges as the star, walking a knife-edge between imperilled heroine and cynical manipulator but she is ably supported by druggie, computer savvy Daniel London, hunky bartender Balthazar Getty and jittery insurance functionary Stacy Edwards. Familiar, if watchable. –Kim Newman