‘Cashing Out’ is Alex Srednoselac’s debut as director of a feature-length film, but despite this, the movie itself is decently well-made with an engaging storyline. The plot sees Allen (Tyler Mills) feeling lost and stuck in life, between his dead-end job at a local pizza parlour and caring for his sick father Rich (James Timothy Peters), with poker providing his only solace.
However, low-stakes games don’t really bring in the money, so Allen decides to rob one of the games, along with his friends Jags (Michaela Lichvanova) and Robby (Tremont Turner). They manage to do this successfully once, which emboldens them to try and hit more games. Meanwhile, Allen hires a home nurse Kate (Whitney Wickham) to look after his worsening father. She is his boss’s daughter though, and he discovers that they play poker as well.
The plot is simple enough, with a regular Joe’s woes being captured and brought to the screen, along with his yearning to break free of the cycle and poker providing an opportunity to do so. Most movies of this genre have the protagonist wanting to play blackjack or poker or other card games to try and win that one jackpot that would solve all their problems, and this is no different, with the exception that Allen ends up robbing the games.
One of the most striking things about this movie is the background score. It complements the action on the screen perfectly, and adds drama and tension to scenes where it is needed.
However, being an independent movie, the quality of some of the supporting actors and extras is not very good. Nevertheless, the core cast acquit themselves well. Tyler does a good job of making Allen seem relatable to the audience. Michaela has an interesting role as Jags, which she pulls off well. She is tough enough to play as the leader of the group of thieves, but soft enough to make the audience believe that she genuinely wants to help Rich. Tremont Turner plays a good hand as Robby, providing the fun and comic element to the group.
In terms of the direction, Alex Srednoselac is extremely tight, making the actors the focus of every scene and eschewing too much visual experimentation. This allows the audience to be as invested in the characters as they possibly can, and the actors also use this to show off their full range and find as much emotional depth as possible. The anticipation in the build-up to the final heist is well-earned, and is only possible because the audience have been hooked by the characters and their stories.
‘Cashing Out’ is not so much a poker movie than a simple story that everybody can relate to. This may not make it that attractive to card aficionados, but it is a story that is well worth sticking to. Some badly-acted side characters aside, the cast does its job well and Srednoselac’s vision comes through on the screen. A note for Melissa Hansen too; she co-wrote the screenplay alongside Srednoselac, and deserves credit for the way in which it pulls the audience in. All in all, ‘Cashing Out’ is a well-made film showcasing a story that is relatable and emotional.