Movie NewsMicah RobinsonComment’m secure enough in my sexuality to admit to man-crushing on certain actors - guys who I think are the shit, have all of the goods, and should be way bigger than they are. And somewhere in my top 10, you’ll find Johnny Messner. This gravelly-voiced stud has been flittering about the margins for years either in small roles in underloved flicks (Spartan, Running Scared) or starring roles in career-damaging shite (Anacondas: The Hunt for The Blood Orchid, Tears of the Sun). At a time when Hollywood seems kind of lacking in “manly man” leading men, you’d think a guy with the voice of Lance Henriksen and the looks of a matinee idol could do better. Maybe it’s his luck. If so, he’s doubly-screwed when it comes to his latest flick, an indie-ensemble piece about a small-stakes poker game that goes horribly awry.

The Poker Club is about a group of friends who are enjoying their weekly poker night when a burglar arrives. They accidentally kill him, but then must deal with the aftermath including the fact that the burglar may have had company. Sharing the screen with Messner are Johnathon “Your spell checker sucks dicks in hell” Schaech, Judy Reyes (Scrubs), and Loren “Hey, remember when I was the next big thing? No?” Dean. You wouldn’t know from the way I framed it, but Schaech is actually the star as he’s producing the film through his very own Chesapeake Films banner.

I doubt Johnny has anything to worry about given the company, and because it’s a about a normal poker game, we probably won’t be treated to ridiculous Casino Royale-esque scenes where we see a flush, two fullhouses, and a straight flush in the same hand. Aside from Rounders, Hollywood has yet to capture the beauty of this maddeningly sublime card game on film, and I don’t know if the number of poker-themed flicks yet to come will change that. This is more about the unscrupulous choices of average Joes, which puts this more in the company of the Mario Van Peebles/Kevin Dillon thriller Stag or Christian Slater’s Very Bad Things, which are pretty much the same film anyway.