California Split (1974)

California Split (1974)

For those who are looking for a movie about casinos and gambling that will leave a warm positive feeling long after the VCR has been turned off, I strongly suggest you stay away from this particular film. It is a dark and sometimes bleak look at the world through the eyes of compulsive gambler.

George Seagal plays a down and out Gambler (Bill Denny) who links up a flighty and free spirited card player named Charlie Waters (played by Elliot Gould). The tie that binds this partnership starts off as a common interest in simply having a good time, but than trouble hits when Waters takes an unscheduled trip to Tijuana and finds himself in debt. To get out of trouble, he sells most of his possessions and than heads for Reno. For most of this film the main characters win at poker, are on the wrong side of robberies, and get drunk at every available chance. 

During the 1970’s the work of Robert Altman was popular and critically acclaimed, why California Split fell through the cracks and into relative obscurity is still unknown. This film stars Elliot Gould and George Segal who were both, at this point in time, arguably at their peeks. Their obvious comfort with Altman’s quirky and freewheeling style just added power to their performances. While Gould and Segal did the heavy lifting, they were backed up by a very competent supporting cast that included Ann Prentiss, Gwen Welles and an unforgettable performance by Bert Remsen, who played the cross-dressing “Helen Brown”.

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