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Film review: Win It All


Media streaming platform Netflix is at the forefront of a new wave of creative movie and television productions right now and one of its latest is the Joe Swanberg-directed gambling hit Win It All that was released on 7th April, 2017.

What’s It All About?

Win It All is a movie that centers around one man’s battle against temptation to gamble. Eddie Garrett (Jake Johnson) is a gambling addict that never tastes the joy of a win. He is left with the responsibility of looking after a duffel bag containing $10,000 in cash for his friend Michael (Jose Antonio Garcia) who is due to serve time in prison.

Despite his best efforts to not take the money, Garrett goes on a spending spree that sees him use the money to improve his life. However, things take a turn for the worst when Garrett’s friend phones him to tell him he is being released from his incarceration early. Garrett then only has a small window of time to recoup the money he has spent.

A Proven Track Record

This latest movie sees the tag team of Swanberg and Johnson linking up once again after the successful 2013 release of Drinking Buddies. It is a solid partnership that delivers both on the story-telling and emotional front. For this particular movie, Swanberg and Johnson co-wrote the script with both also taking on the role of co-producers with Alex Orr.

The movie also stars a number of talented actors including Aislinn Derbez, Joe Lo Truglio, and Keegan-Michael Key. It is a cast that has the right chemistry to approach such a sensitive subject as gambling addiction. The decision to base a comedy-drama on such a subject was brave but it pays dividends due to the clever and thoughtful script.

Joining the Top Table

Gambling movies have long had a firm place in the hearts of movie buffs over the years. Rounders, 21, and Casino Royale are just a few titles that have hit the cinemas over the past couple of decades and earned high praise from the fans. It looks like Win It All could well be considered in the same class as these movies.

The golden age of cinema saw movies such as The Hustler, The Cincinnati Kid, and The Sting released with positive reviews. It proved that gambling can be a topic that can set the foundations for an intriguing plot in a movie. Online and mobile gambling has made gambling much more accessible to younger generations and it has very much become a mainstream topic for a lot of movie goers these days. More people gamble online these days than ever before, so using gambling as a main plotline is something a lot of the audience can relate to.

Nowadays, there is a thirst by the audience to see the drama taken to the next level. More depth to the characters is needed. Storylines that go beyond needing to hit a full house on a game of poker (no offence Maverick!) are what today’s modern audience craves.

Win It All does offer a modern take on how the highs and lows of gambling impact an individual on  a personal level. Films of the past have often put more focus on the action and intensity of the actual gambling. This movie takes a different angle by making Eddie the focal point and that is refreshing.

A Modern Gambling Classic

There are not going to be any claims that this movie is up there with the likes of other famous gambling movies such as Rounders, The Color of Money, or Casino. It is far from a classic. However, what this movie can claim to be is courageous.

At face value, the movie shows the ups and downs of gambling large sums of money through casino gambling and other forms of gambling. It adds an amusing twist to the experiences by showing how Eddie is mocked by his friends for poor decision-making before the realization hits that Eddie’s problem is more serious than initially presumed by those around him.

What the movie does effectively is show how much people can benefit from taking control of their life. It also interprets the ultimate cost that can hit if people become embroiled in the downward spiral of gambling addiction. This is not so much a lecture for those that have become addicted to gambling but more a film about making people more aware of how serious an addiction to gambling can become. It also does well to encapsulate the emotional rollercoaster of gambling addiction and the potential avenues, both good and bad, that addicts can go down as they attempt to deal with their problems.


Win It All is another example of how Netflix is a pioneer in tackling tough subject matters without fear. The script needed to be spot on to avoid causing offence or appearing to be insensitive. Fortunately, Swanberg and Johnson hit the right tone and in doing so produce a movie that will hopefully open people’s eyes to the reality of gambling addiction whilst at the same time enjoying a very absorbing story.