I’m a stranger when it comes to keno pool, let alone gambling. The folks inside Tom Schulman’s ‘Double Down South’? Not so much. If you’re an avid pool fan or a casual like me and like your fair share of Southern films featuring a Southern belle with some high-stakes illegal gambling then this film is right up your alley.
Don’t worry, even if you aren’t well-versed in the world of keno pool, Schulman has you covered with all the basics as we embark on this drama-filled redemption quest with Diana, played by Lili Simmons (“Banshee,” “True Detective,” “Ray Donovan”). Serving as her keno pool mentor is Nick, played by Kim Coates (“Bad Blood,” “Sons of Anarchy”) and I will tell you right now that the dynamic and chemistry between Simmons and Coates is hot!
Diana (Lili Simmons) is a newcomer to the world of keno pool and has arrived at Nick’s run-down plantation home where illegal, high-stakes keno pool games are held for large lump sums of money. Nick is enamored with Diana’s smart, but tough and charming demeanor, a Southern belle intent on winning big. Looking to learn the ropes, Diana manages to convince Nick to take her under his wing and teach her more than just the basics of Keno pool. But also shows her how to finesse the game and double or even triple their winnings each game.
During this process, Diana befriends Little Nick (Igby Rigney), a one-time keno prodigy who Nick (Kim Coates) reduces to servicing the pool tables during and after keno games are played. The ultimate goal here is to help Nick (Kim Coates) defeat the keno pool champion, Beaumont DuBinion, who has an extensive, yet violent history with Nick (Kim Coates).
Tom Schulman delivers a massive punch with the film’s story and its big twist. Redemption stories are not new but as I usually say in my reviews or online sentiments, it’s all about how you deliver the story and make it worth my time and engagement. This is my first time seeing a redemption story told in the world of keno pool and it’s a welcomed addition to my cinematic horizons. The story and the characters of Diana and Nick sell the film to me. The revelation that Diana and Beaumont DuBininon are romantic partners and that she was fully aware of how Nick nearly killed DuBinion thus thrusting her on this revenge/redemption quest sealed the deal for me.
Schulman does an amazing job at withholding any information linking Diana and DuBinion together making the reveal all that more impactful. Which also makes the viewing experience worthwhile. The keno pool matches are not all that exciting to be quite honest, there are no trick shots or anything of the sort, but that could all be left to me being unfamiliar with Keno pool rather than just knowing about 8-ball pool. The film also just only takes place at Nick’s plantation home. It would’ve been a tad more interesting match-wise if these matches were held at other locations as well and there were higher stakes than the massive lump sums of cash.
Then again when it comes to illegal gambling, nothing is flashy or pretty. It is meant to be kept hush-hush despite how massive Nick’s reputation is; including Beaumont DuBinion, the undisputed Keno world champion. So while things seem massive they are still relatively small in scale and self-contained. In addition, my issue with Diana and DuBinion’s relationship is that it doesn’t feel authentic. It is not believable, despite the actual romance between them and the fact that she donated her kidneys to save him, which lo and behold, came at the cost of his altercation with Nick before meeting Diana.
These are just minor nitpicks, it doesn’t detract from how the reveal was made and how it was set up, nor does it detract from my enjoyment of the film. Lili Simmons and Justin Marcel McManus had great on-screen chemistry up until this point. Kim Coates also shines as the seasoned veteran and as the douchebag hustler who wants to wants things done his way or the highway. A true asshole for lack of a better and Coates delivers that aspect of the character perfectly. There’s a lot to enjoy about this movie, it has the drama, it has the stakes, it has love serving as Diana’s drive, and it even has some great comedic moments, albeit unintentionally.
‘Double Down South’ is now playing in theaters.
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