As Molly begins to ingratiate herself to the regular players so the tips become from more frequent and more sizeable. She is good at what she does and keeps everything above board, maintaining meticulous records and strong (strictly business) relationships, all the while learning the intricacies of the game and the players. The most successful of whom is Player X (Michael Cera) playing a composite of some high profile Hollywood A-List Actor types. Molly aims to keep on the right side of Player X, for he has the pulling power to attract more high wealth players to Dean's games. In time however, Dean observes that Molly is becoming more independent at managing and running the games and is making plenty of money in tips - a fact that he is secretly jealous with. And so Dean delivers Molly an ultimatum, which is not to her liking, and so Dean fires her.
Molly has made a substantial sum in tips over the years, and so is hardly destitute. Musing over her new unemployed status, she decides that she is good enough at running such poker games, has a network of players who would gladly follow her, and has the credibility to make a real go of it. And so she rents a penthouse in a hotel, hires the tables and the staff to run the games, organises the catering and a well stocked bar and begins to secretly spread the word about her high stakes poker games. Player X, along with those others from Dean's games, defect over to Molly's game, and she becomes increasingly successful amassing more money from tips. All is good, until she learns that Player X has covertly been covering the losses of an initially conservative but increasingly compulsive poker player who has lost up big in recent weeks, ultimately costing him his marriage. Molly is none too pleased with Player X's unethical behaviour and the two fall out. Player X returns to Dean's game, taking all the other players with him. Overnight, Molly has gone from hero to zero!
One of her players is arrested and convicted for running a Ponzi Scheme which in turn leads to an investigation into Molly's poker games and who the other players involved were/are. At about this time, the pressure is mounting and Molly takes to drugs and alcohol to settle her nerves and ease the stress. Another player, Douglas Downey (Chris O'Dowd) who is infatuated with Molly, introduces wealthy individuals from the Russian Mafia to her game, although Molly is unaware of their mob connections. At the same time Molly is approached by the Italian Mafia who offer to coerce money from players who have racked up debts with Molly, but she politely declines. A few days later at the start of the two week Christmas break period, Molly is attacked in her apartment where she is held at gunpoint, badly beaten, robbed of her cash and jewels and her mother threatened with her life.
Having nursed her wounds and remained holed up in her apartment for two weeks over the Christmas break gradually healing, Molly is ready to return to her poker games. A phone call comes through from Downey in a panic warning her that the FBI is about to descend upon her, as a result of his informing on her. All of her assets are seized and she returns home to live with her mother Charlene (Claire Rankin).
Two years later, and Molly has published her book recounting her story, her rise, her downfall and naming a number of names associated with her games. In the meantime, Molly is arrested by the FBI together with thirty or so others as part of a money laundering scheme and illegal sports gambling operation in cahoots with the Mafia. She seeks out the support of Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) a high profile and very expensive New York lawyer who is reluctant at first to take her case. He however, agrees to help her after learning that she has over US$2M in unclaimed gambling debts and after reading her book which indicates to him that there is insufficient evidence pointing to criminal activity or wrongdoing to warrant a prison sentence.
'Molly's Game' is a solid Directorial debut for Sorkin and has all his usual trademarks of rapid fire dialogue; sports, celebrities and underworld dealings; a strong female protagonist in Chastain and an equally strong support from Idris Elba. The film runs long at 140 minutes, but it moves along at a good pace and seldom leaves you wanting. You do however, need to pay attention as the film darts back and forth from the present day back to Molly's early childhood years learning to perfect her skiing moves under her ever present, demanding and relentless father, and her rebellious teenage years that influenced what she was to become. Then there is the language of the game itself and the images that flick up on the screen of winning hand combinations; then not to forget the confident quick paced dialogue delivered by lawyer Charlie Jaffey in conversation with Molly or defending her case to the Prosecutor's or plea bargaining; and then finally the back to front nature by which the film plays out which we see in flashbacks. The film is entertaining enough and well worth the price of your ticket entry for Chastain's performance alone if nothing else, and to see her sparring with Idris Elba, but in between the moments of razor sharp quickly delivered narrative and exposition, and the action of the poker table and its myriad of players, the film does drag its heels somewhat which elevates the film to the ranks of top card game movies, but doesn't surpass them.
-Steve, at Odeon Online-