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Original Issue

Under Review

Early in High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story, Ungar meets an elderly New York gangster who's considering bankrolling the brash teenage card shark. "If Gus likes you, there will be no problem," Stu is told by his surrogate father, Vincent, a socially refined bookie who arranged the sit-down. "Except liking you is sometimes a problem." Roller, which stars Michael Imperioli in the title role and hits stores on DVD on March 15, chronicles the rise and fall of a high-stakes gin rummy wunderkind who won the World Series of Poker twice by the time he was 28 and three times overall but whose life dissolved in a whirl of womanizing and drug addiction. Roller feels clichéd at times (yes, there's the requisite Goodfellas homage), and it glosses over the fact that Ungar had cocaine and methadone in his system when he died of heart failure in 1998, at the age of 45. But Imperioli's character study of an addict is compelling--Ungar is played as a smarter, less violent version of Christopher Moltisanti, Imperioli's character on The Sopranos--and he's aided by a solid supporting cast that includes Michael Nouri (who played Joe DiMaggio in 61*) as Vincent and Pat Morita as a slick casino boss. Like Ungar, Roller is flawed, but liking it isn't a problem. --S.C.