Double Down South


‘…a rough, tough confidence-thriller than delivers on tension, and tells an engrossing tale about a sport you probably didn’t know existed…’

Fancy a game of… erm, -checks notes-, Keno? Keno is a variation on pool, with a whole lotta wagering going on, and a wooden board that slides over part of the table. The gifted player tries to get certain balls to rest in certain holes at certain times…but fortunately, you don’t need to know how to play Keno to enjoy Tom Schulman’s deliciously deceptive Double Down South, any more than you need a working knowledge of Texas Hold’ Em to enjoy Casino Royale.

Previously known as Southern Gothic, Double Down South is a twisty-turny sports drama that cannily disguises a fairly wicked thriller; if you recognise writer-director Schulman’s name, it’s probably from his Oscar-winning screenplay for Peter Weir’s Dead Poets’ Society, but Double Down South is a leaner, seedier proposition. The super-sinister Nick (the excellent Kim Coates from Sons of Anarchy) runs an illegal keno-parlour from a semi-collapsed plantation mansion in the backwoods; one day Diana (Lili Simmons) arrives at his gatherings, and Nick sees her as a potential honey-trap to help him hustle cash out of the area’s high-stakes keno players, like Beaumont DuBinion (Justin Marcel McManus). Nick has almost a cult-leader status in his household, with a gallery of hangers-on, victims and parasites around him. But who exactly is Diana, where is she actually from, and what are her real motives?

‘Men are better at hitting targets than women’ is the thesis that gets fully destroyed here; Diana is smart and physically adept enough to turn the tables on her adversaries in a satisfying climax. But Double Down South is more than just a female empowerment story; it’s a House of Games-style deception in which just about everyone has an angle, including Little Nick (Igby Rigney), who takes a shine to Diana. In fact, there’s a number of predatory men who take an interest in our heroine, but that’s part of the danger and the design of the story; like Rounders or The Hustler, watching the game itself is less important than watching the players, and the resourceful Diana plays to win in every sense.

Having premiered at Newport Beach International Film Festival last week, Double Down South should go on to a healthy life as a popular mainstream entertainment; it’s got the strong, satisfying character development, sparky dialogue and hairpin narrative you’d hope for in a quality indie movie, and Coates and Simmons both convince as two gamblers who are playing for different stakes. Double Down South isn’t a particularly fashionable film, tackling racism and sexism head on without virtue signalling, but it’s all the better for it; this is a rough, tough confidence-thriller than delivers on tension, and tells an engrossing tale about a sport you probably didn’t know existed.


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    • I had to look it up. Been going for a while. Probably a popular game when Alex was a young man in the Victorian Age.

            • A One in Highlander would be a Six in Highlander 2. There’s a joke in here somewhere but I can’t quite stick the phrasing. Maybe I should review Highlander 2 with the line ‘There should be only one’ but maybe it’s been done already.

              • If you can find anything NON-joke worthy about H2 I’d be glad to hear it. I watched it and was so baffled that I have since pretended it doesn’t exist nor do any of the other movies. Not even any of hte ones with the White Power Ranger dude.

                But your by-line is worthy of a review in and of itself. Watch the movie and then spend the whole review talking about how clever your by-line is. I’d “like” that 😀

                • What you personally like is the single overarching drive behind what I write.

                  I would cheerfully bring back Highlander right now. Has the potential to be a John Wick type franchise. If old IP brings people in, great. But it might foil your intention to destroy cinema?

                  • I’d insert a joke but I’m pleased as punch at knowing that no movie or franchise can save cinema. Only people could do that and as I rank people just slightly above dirty bilge water, well, I don’t think I have to worry 😀

                    On a serious note. no movie is going to succeed now without a good story and most writers, directors and actors in Hollywood seem more intent on pushing their sociopolitical view than in telling a good story. So if Highlander was revived, it would be an utter travesty.

                    Which is why some of us still watch old movies, and read old books 😀

                    • I’ve read some old books. And that learning suggests that Highlander could be awesome. Outlander seems to work for people. Capture that romance and add big action sequences as Connor MacLeod searches through 200 years for the others. And there’s no aliens or hoverboards. Highlander’s search ends at the apex of civilization that is New York. Any one of his previous adventures in history could be a spin off. Could send him to any historical event, ideally one with fighting. But the big switch would be to make him properly Scottish. That’s the culture that was in the first film.

    • Is the correct answer…I really enjoyed it, and I think you would to. Like this kind of deceptive story,a nd even if you guess where it’s going, it’s still fun getting there…

        • Just had their premiere, and YES I’m working on a monthly feature which will update the release info for films getting an early review. Can’t expect you to circle back.

            • No, and frequently the film-makers don’t either. A film might spend a year at festivals, then get picked up and scheduled for release a year later. This movie has been screened once, and it’s future depends on ‘influencers’ ( stop laughing) like myself finding and sharing whether it’s good or not. But you are right, I can’t expect readers to circle back daily to find out if there’s a chance to see it.

  1. Keno used to be a lottery game around these parts. Maybe it still is.

    How was it previously known as Southern Gothic if it just premiered last week? Or am I missing something?

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