The Poker Club says: Panic in the Face of Adversity!

Is it really too much to ask, in movies where people accidentally kill someone, then freak out and decide to get rid of the body, that they have done something in the slightest bit questionable that keeps them from going to the cops?

This movie revolves around four relatively successful businessmen who get together once a week for poker games. Since their names aren’t important, I’ll refer to them as Nervous, Jock, Druggy, and Main Character, who, in being the main character, gets more than one personality trait. One night they’re out in a shed, playing their poker, when one of them sees a mysterious figure lurking around the main character’s house.

The men rush in and discover that a crazed Russian is lurking in his kitchen with a knife. Through the time-honored tradition of the ‘gang-up’, the men manage to subdue the attacker in the basement and then tie his hands. This doesn’t stop the Russian, though, who struggles to his feet and runs straight at Nervous, who happens to be holding a baseball bat in his hands. Exactly what you think happens happens, and now the four guys are left with a dead body on their hands.

Except they haven’t done anything morally or legally wrong. Here’s the situation – a guy came into the main character’s house with a knife and some kind of nefarious intentions. In trying to subdue this dangerous man, the Russian wound up dead. What are the cops going to say? ‘Sorry, folks, you didn’t have the right to defend yourselves from an intruder.’ Is this not set in America? The place where it’s legal to shoot an Asian guy in KISS makeup if he rings your doorbell after 9PM*? This guy had actually broken into the house, and was waving a knife (that he brought with him) at people, trying to stab them. If anything, they didn’t hit him enough times with the baseball bat.

(* 1992 – The State of Louisianna v. Peairs – turns out he wasn’t wearing KISS makeup, he was dressed like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. The KISS thing was from the Homicide episode about the case, which also massively misrepresented the facts. Turns out the Japanese guy had already started to head for his car when Peairs left his home, pointed the gun, and yelled 'Freeze'. The fact that Hattori turned around upon hearing that was considered enough of an agressive act to acquit Peairs. But he lost at the civil trial, so that's something.)

There are only two things that might seem a little questionable to the police. A: The guys had been drinking, and one of them was a little coked-up. 2: The Russian’s hands were tied behind his back when he rushed at Nervous and wound up dead.

The thing is, neither of these conditions count as a good reason not to call the police. First off, they’re not THAT drunk. Everyone is wide awake and speaking in complete sentences, and the guy who swung the bat had been drinking less than anyone. The rope on his hands is a little harder to explain, but not impossible – after all, it’s not like the threat you feel from an intruder has to be completely reasonable. A lawyer could make a really compelling argument that Nervous had every right to fear for his life even when facing a bound man. If they’re so scared of explaining that away, though, there’s an easy fix – take the rope off his hands. Would there sill be marks? Sure. But all you have to do is explain that you tried to tie his hands and subdue him, but when your backs were turned he struggled out of them and rushed at Nervous. Who are they going to believe, the four of you who were attacked in your home, or the crazed Russian who broken in with a knife, and is currently dead, so he can’t offer his side of the story.

If you want it to look really good, wrap his hand around a hammer. This whole fight was taking place in a basement, who’s to say that after getting his hands free he didn’t grab a hammer and come at Nervous with it, necessitating his death by baseball bat? Again, it not like there’s anyone to argue with you about the timeline.

But no, none of this happens, because four supposedly reasonable men decide that rather than honestly explain their completely legal actions to the police, they’d rather wrap a body up in a tarp and drive it a few miles away to dump in a river, without weighing it down in any meaningful fashion.

The crazy part about all of this is just how half-assed their attempt to get rid of the body is. Do they search the body to find out who the attacker is? No. Do they consider the possibility that he wasn’t alone? No. The biggest problem, though – how did the Russian guy get to the Main Character’s house? He lives in what’s essentially a farm well at the edge of the suburbs. From no angle looking ar or out of his house can another house be seen. So obviously he didn’t walk. So where is his car? What’s the point of killing a guy and getting rid of his body if you leave his vehicle sitting in a copse of trees next to your house? When the body is inevitably found and identified (because of your half-assed disposal job), and then the car is discovered next to your house, what do you think the cops are going to think?

Most importantly, no one in the group gives any serious consideration to the question of why a Russian ‘thief’ would head out into the middle of nowhere, carrying a knife, and break into a house with all the lights on and four cars in the driveway.

Two days later, when a police detective shows up to tell the Main Character that they recently discovered a body out in the river, and on that body was a piece of paper with his name and address written on it.

Also notice the great product placement. It seems that ‘EVIDENT’ is a real company that sells crime scene equipment, and that’s their web site and toll-free phone number. It seems that you don’t even have to be a cop to buy yellow crime scene tape. Who knew? Also, wasn’t that body underwater? Why is that scrap of paper so legible? Hey, isn't it nice when props tell you where a movie is set? According to webmaps there isn't actually an Edgewood Road in Branchville, NJ, but that's still great.

Despite all of these pieces of information, it still doesn’t occur to the Main Character to pause and consider the fact that someone clearly sent the Russian to his house to kill him, and that he might have bigger problems than his illegal covering up of a completely legal killing.

The film kind of spirals into stupidity from there, with people chasing other people around and obvious plot twists and a silly ending, but even a wonderful execution of the premise really couldn’t have made up for such completely stupid behavior by all the characters right at the outset.

I’ve said a lot of bad things about the movie ‘Very Bad Things’ in the past, but at least that film understoof that if you’re gong to have characters trying to cover up a crime, it has to be something that can’t be easily explained to the police. Of course, in that film, the questionable thing was the psychopathic Christian Slater killing that security guard, not the hooker’s death. While disgusting and questionable, their actions weren’t anything the cops would get especially upset about. It’s not like hookers and small personal amounts of cocaine are strange things to have in a Vegas hotel room. Yeah, she wound up dead, but in a manner that could only ever be interpreted as a total accident.

Yeah, in using that movie as an example of a slightly better of the situation depicted in this one, all that wound up happening is that I’ve remembered how much I hated the movie Very Bad Things. Thanks, Peter Berg.

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