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Losing Ground (#110 of 2)

The Jackpot Mentality

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The Jackpot Mentality
The Jackpot Mentality

I first saw Brooklyn filmmaker Bryan Wizemann’s debut feature Losing Ground at Cinequest last year and was struck by how uncompromised it was and how true it felt. Set entirely in a video poker bar in Las Vegas, it unfolds in real time, deftly sketching psychological portraits of some desperate but recognizable human types: a lovely but hard-living young woman named Michelle (Eileen O’Connell) who hopes a jackpot can save her, at least temporarily, from having to sell her body to pay the bills; a speed freak (Monique Vukovic) who’s trying to rebuild her relationship with her estranged adult son by sending him gambling earnings; a pissed-off young man (Matthew Mark Meyer) who lost $3000 in the bar the night before, and his new girlfriend (Rhonda Keyser), who unfortunately used to date the bartender (Kendall Pigg), a booze-dispensing diplomat whose patience for bad behavior is not limitless. These characters barely have a chance to find a barroom rhythm when they’re rattled by a new arrival, a magnetic loner in a ten-gallon hat (played by John Good with a mix of genial confidence and faint but palpable menace) who proceeds to have good luck with the same machine that ate the sore loser’s money.