Editor’s Notes: Cold Deck will have its limited theatrical release at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto, and Laemmle Theatre in Los Angeles, on Friday, December 4th.
Needless to say, many films slip under the radar every year. Cold Deck is the newest directional effort from Zack Bernbaum and it’s one that deserves to be seen. As the film progresses, we get more perspective into the leading character, Bobby, portrayed by Toronto based actor Stefano Gallo. As the cards are played, and the bluffs are called, Bobby finds himself entangled in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. Though Bernbaum’s film is undeniably entertaining, it often gets boggled down and forgets what it wants to be – trying too profusely to include comedy into the screenplay, that in the end, it produces a film which seems to have forgotten its purpose.
Though Bernbaum’s film is undeniably entertaining, it often gets boggled down and forgets what it wants to be . . .
Cold Deck tells the story of Bobby, a down on his luck poker player looking for a way out of his life, but can’t seem to catch a break. As Bobby begins to gamble, he begins to experience the effects of the game when he buys into a game that costs him $25000, money which he had to obtain through unethical means. When he eventually loses to his father figure, Chips, he’s offered an opportunity to perform an easily executed heist, which will yield him a return greater than any poker game he could’ve imagined. Between the heist, his girlfriend and his mother, Bobby is hauled into an unforgivable, unflinching world littered with vengeance and grief.
By far, the most impressive thing about Cold Deck are its visuals. For a relatively low budget film, Zack Bernbaum and Kris Belchevski have crafted a film, which looks incredible. The cinematography truly tells a story, along with the work on the lighting that went into the film. Too often, low budget films struggle with the concept of lighting scenes right, and therefore, they radiate a amateurish look, yet Cold Deck effectively escapes its niche, and directly attempts to achieve something greater. On a visual scale, it definitely achieves this, as Cold Deck looks absolutely flawless. The shots, lighting and editing are perfectly suitable for this type of film, evoking enough emotion to keep the audience interested.
Stefano Gallo, a Toronto-based actor, plays the lead role of Bobby convincingly. For one of his first leading roles in a film, Gallo is surprisingly good both in sentimental terms as well as radiating badass at times. His supporting cast is talented as well, featuring the talents of veteran actor Paul Sorvino and Prison Break star Robert Knepper. Together, the cast makes for a fun, wild ride as they convincingly portray their characters.
By far, the most impressive thing about Cold Deck are its visuals. For a relatively low budget film, Zack Bernbaum and Kris Belchevski have crafted a film, which looks incredible.
The thing that hinders Cold Deck from being better, though, is it’s writing. At times, the writing is over the top, and that’s a good thing. For a premise so inconceivably plausible, it’s good to have a little sense of insanity in there, and Cold Deck achieves that at points in the film. But, for the majority of the film, it seems as if writers Stefano Gallo and Jason Lapeyre play it too safe – catering to the likes of a generalized audience, which forces the film to take a sentimental tangent which doesn’t bode well with the atmosphere nor the premise itself. The addition of comedy in the screenplay seems forced, and holds back the actors from giving good performances, as they seem to get confused themselves as to how they should shape their character’s mannerisms. The film adds in an unnecessarily sentimental subplot between Bobby and his mother, which detracts the interest of the viewer as they’re expecting more poker, more heists and more action. Problems that arise with the screenplay are problematic for Cold Deck because it serves as a kind of identity crisis, and leaves the viewer after the film questioning whether or not they actually enjoyed it, a result of the moments of forced comedy and awkward sentimentality.
When the film comes to a close, you feel good about the film you just watched. Though there are moments that seem manipulative and overly sentimental, the film doesn’t fail to entertain throughout its 80 minute runtime. There are inherent, and somewhat major flaws with Cold Deck, but there are also major successes, namely in its lead Stefano Gallo and the impressive cinematography. Cold Deck is an film worth seeing, though it’s story suffers from an identity crisis – one which hinders the film from achieving greatness.
Cold Deck is an film worth seeing, though it’s story suffers from an identity crisis – one which hinders the film from achieving greatness.