Mixed or average reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 32
  2. Negative: 3 out of 32
  1. 75
    For a grimmer and more realistic look at this world, no modern movie has surpassed Karel Reisz's "The Gambler'' (1974), starring James Caan in a screenplay by self-described degenerate gambler James Toback.
  2. 75
    Although the storyline is predictable, the intelligent dialogue and top-drawer acting more than make up for the possible deficiency.
  3. Damon is a magical actor. His mind, as sharp and focused as a laser, beams out of the face of a vivacious choirboy, and, in nearly every scene, he invites you to share the jet-propelled pleasure of his precocious agility.
  4. 60
    Stylish entertainment and smartass fun when director John Dahl ("The Last Seduction") plays his strong suit (a gifted cast) instead of his weakest (a derivative plot).
  5. It should have been the poker equivalent of "The Hustler." But it suffers from iron-poor blood. No energy. It just lies there.
  6. 60
    Richly atmospheric but a little thin in the character department: It feels oddly truncated, despite nicely textured performances.
  7. The acting is solid, but the story builds less drama and suspense than its high-stakes subject might lead you to expect.
  8. Like Malkovich's out of control Russian accent, Rounders ends up reaching a place too hard to understand and even harder to believe in.
  9. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Because I'm a sucker--I was entertained...The script is good at making you think that it has better cards than it really does. And the actors constitute a royal flush--OK, OK, enough with the poker metaphors.
  10. A tiresome 1998 rip-off of The Hustler, with poker (in a New York Russian Mafia milieu) taking the place of pool, Matt Damon taking over for Paul Newman, and John Malkovich's scenery chewing supplanting Jackie Gleason's self-effacement.
  11. 40
    Neither Dahl nor most of his actors ever quite convince us that there's a good reason to sit in front of a movie screen watching them for more than two hours.
  12. That is the heart of what's missing here: the buzz that unites these games and players, the seductive lure that excites as it also placates. The dramatic throughline is murky as well...Undeniably good are the performances, however.
  13. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Intermittently engaging but dramatically slack, this more interesting around the edges than it is at its core, thanks to the dull nature of the lead character played by Matt Damon.
  14. Though it's a good-looking flick with some smart acting and a few flashy runs, it barely breaks even dramatically, and feels, overall, like a good chance wasted.
  15. 80
    Rounders is such a smart, tough little film that its strengths override its fairly serious weaknesses.
  16. Oughtta be much bettor.
  17. 30
    An unappealing, conventional, and somnolent piece of work in which, as glumly directed from David Levien and Brian Koppelman's corny script, every scene feels like it's being played for the second time.
  18. 50
    Though the movie looks gorgeous, glittering with the monochromatic beauty of noir transposed into the key of yellow, it chugs along like an overly responsible documentary, more the working out of an idea about the gambler's true nature than a story.
  19. This isn't a movie where story matters that much: It's a movie of character and milieu, both of which it evokes brilliantly.
  20. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Everything in Rounders is right there on the surface. Watching it is about as exciting as playing poker with all the cards face up. [14 Sept 1998]
  21. 40
    And while it's intermittently engaging, the drama's flatter than a sucker's wallet.
  22. Mischievously entertaining...Dahl's film has character in oversupply even if its actual characters are sometimes thin. Poker fever makes up for whatever the story lacks in everyday emotions.
  23. 75
    Most novel is Rounders' message that the real sin isn't giving into vice but denying your God-given talents and not risking it all.
  24. 63
    Lazy, predictable and even dumb about what happens away from the tables. [11 Sept 1998]
  25. 50
    Damon looks like a kid lost in the wrong neighborhood, and his acting manners underscore that impression--everything is a bit too fine, too neat...An intermittently interesting, intermittently foolish film.
  26. Reviewed by: Robert Horton
    Edward Norton, who created a buzz of excitement in his first year in movies, stubs his toe with Worm... It's the same guy we've seen in countless mean streets pictures, but Norton doesn't find anything new to do with him. He's Ratso Rizzo defanged.
  27. Reviewed by: John Hartl
    It's "The Hustler with poker and without soul...For all its flash and occasional sizzle, "Rounders" is a disappointment.
  28. Reviewed by: Tom Keogh
    Rounders is more involved with the insulated, arcane world of a gambler than it is with the things that actually make a movie work, such as characters and relationships and a script that connects all its dots.
  29. Reviewed by: Sean Means
    Alas, when Rounders lays out its cards, the results aren't as much as you'd been led to believe. But the movie's style and authenticity run a good bluff.
  30. Reviewed by: Ron Wells
    It's too bad with all of the poker action there wasn't enough time to establish the relationships between characters.
  31. Reviewed by: Edvins Beitkis
    In spite of how hard everything is to believe, you believe what Damon is doing.
  32. Reviewed by: Bruce Diones
    Screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien have given some crackerjack card-shark dialogue to two hot young actors—Matt Damon and Edward Norton—and together with John Dahl's atmospheric direction they've all made a dream of a poker movie.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 48 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 13
  2. Negative: 1 out of 13
  1. GaborA.
    Jul 17, 2006
    As typical of a movie you can make about card playing. A ninth grader selected at random and told to write a movie about poker would come up with a script very similar to this film. Rounders see's all the angle's but doesn't have the courage to make a move. Full Review »
  2. Nov 15, 2014
    Although the ending is a bit too "Hollywood", Rounders succeeds in engrossing us in the tension of high-stakes poker, and having a good performance from Damon. Norton, on the other hand, plays the same annoying character as per usual, and the only thing more fake than their chemistry is John Malkovich's Russian accent. Full Review »
  3. Aug 17, 2013
    Blessed with good acting, the cliche of the storyline and the constant jargon are the main pitfalls of the film and the reasons it falters in the end. However, I still liked this one. Full Review »