I love a good bad movie. Few things tickle me in the way that an ill-advised poorly executed celluloid mess does. It’s like watching Little League Baseball, there’s something endearing about how hard the kids try and how little they succeed. Some of my favorite awfuls include the 2001 Tony “Monk” Shalhoub train wreck “Thir13en Ghosts,” the 1999 Bill Pullman atrocity “Lake Placid” and just about anything with Bruce Campbell. Until last night, I believed the 2006 crap vampire dimensional action flop “Ultraviolet” to be the worst major movie ever made: terrible camerawork, a wretched plot matched only by its abominable script and utter disregard for continuity, a forced love subplot, a creepy kid with powers, vampires – it has everything. If you love to go Mystery Science Theater 3000 and rip on an unspectacular spectacular, then I couldn’t point you to any worse a flick then “Ultraviolet.” And then, last night, in the dark recesses of late-night HBO, I saw Party Poker’s “All In” and my whole world was shaken.
As a poker player, I cringe whenever a poker table pops up in film because nothing good ever follows. Even relatively good movies do poker terribly (see the coldest deck in the history of the universe in the last James Bond movie, “Casino Royale.”) I figured that a movie on at 1:30 in the morning on HBO called “All In” was going to have to be pretty lousy – I had no idea that I was about to watch the worst movie ever made.
Let me start by saying that “All-in” has Michael Madsen in it. That’s right, Mr. Blonde is in the movie! A darling of Indie cine-snobs and one of Quentin Tarantino’s go-to guys, anything that has Vic Vega in it has me at hello.
“All In” begins with that most sacred of traditions of rancid films – a flashback. A little girl named Ace, who will turn out to be the heroine of the film, sneaks out of bed to watch her father, Michael Madsen, play NL Hold’em with a group of poker professionals/scum-of-the-earth (why don’t poker players ever bathe in Hollywood?) She watches as he pulls off a stone-cold bluff on the river, holding something absurd like 6-3 off suit. Then she scurries back into bed in time to hear her parents arguing about Mr. Blonde playing poker in the house. The Mom, apparently, is a religious fanatic who cannot abide the sinning in her house any longer (because a religious fanatic is definitely the type of a lady who is going to marry and procreate with Michael Madsen.) Dad agrees to leave and gives Ace a final talk about love and poker and dreams and crap then leaves.
Fast forward ten years into the future and Ace has of course, grown up into a ridiculously hot blonde chick. She’s on her way to med school on a scholarship, too – hot, smart, deep-seated father issues, this is my kind of lady! In her first class, she hooks up with the other ridiculously hot med school students and they decide to meet up and study together.
Oh yeah, rather than study (because who needs to study in med school?) the 6 of them start playing a game of strip poker. What’s this?! Ace doesn’t want to play? She must be a prude or ashamed of her body or some such, the girls will loosen her up. But oh no, the girls can’t loosen her up. Ace looks down abjectly and sighs. It turns out that Ace hasn’t played poker in more than 10 years because of her father’s untimely death in a car crash. Wait? Michael Madsen is dead?
But anyway, now that that’s out in the open, let’s get naked. And so they play strip poker and Ace cleans everyone out then a few of them begin relationships.Good way to get to know somebody, strip poker.
The next day at school, the other five ridiculously hot unstudied med school students approach Ace with a plan – they’ll band together and form the greatest poker team in history! After all, Barrett is a math genius and can keep track of betting patterns, Pete has a gift for psychology and can read everyone, Jake can talk his way through anything and Jasmine is really really hot. All they need is for Ace to play for them and they’ll work together and yadda yadda yadda med school bills, dreams, something like that.
Then the evil doctor gets involved! Oh yes, there is an evil doctor. Dr. Pennington is the grumpy head of the medical program that the students are in and is particularly annoyed by the uppity Ace who has the nerve to talk to her patients (Dr. Pennington is, as we see, a proponent of the rip open the patient’s blouse and check for breast cancer in front of 20 other people method.) And wouldn’t you know it, but Dr. Pennington has co-opted another hot female doctor and the two of them are doing nefarious things together.
Meanwhile, the team runs into Louis Gossett Jr. Oh my, Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr is in this, too?! Even though he goes on to beat Ace heads up for the satellite qualifier to the Party Poker Millions tournament, Gossett (whose name is Caps in “All In”) gives Ace the Golden Chip which acts as a buy-in for the $10,000 tourney. And then, out of the corner of her eye, is that? Could it be? Ace spots Michael Madsen! The man who hunted Nordic Alien Goddess Natasha Henstridge in “Species” lives after all!
It turns out that he had faked his death for insurance purposes and had been invisibly aiding Ace over the years – he even paid for her college through a phony scholarship. So they say about 4 lines of dialogue about that and about “how could he?!” and then the evil doctor turns out to be the greatest poker player in the world and arch nemesis to Wonderboy! Seriously though, Dr. Pennington is the bad guy and Michael Madsen warns Ace about him who in turn tells her Dad about the evil doings of Dr. Pennington at school. Because as you would expect, the head of a medical department who is also a working physician and expert poker player is so strapped for cash that naturally, he extorts large sums of cash out of his destitute insurance-less patients who can’t speak English.
Then there is the Party Poker Millions tournament and you guessed it, Ace wins the tourney and sends Dr. Pennington to jail in one fail swoop. The Cowboy Poet (FYI, in real life Michael Madsen is a published poet) makes amends with his daughter, the hot students match up and kiss their cookie cutter partner and zippity do dah, the credits roll.
There has never been a worse movie made… ever. Not anything Ed Wood or Andy Warhol made, nothing McG made – I tell you “Glitter” is better. If you have any interest in bad movies, you must see “All In,” it is the absolute worst movie ever made, bar none.