Director: Walter Hill
Writers: Mae Woods and Walter Hill
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Kevin Tighe, John Kassir, Roy Brocksmith, Diane Civita, Alan Graf, Alisa Christensen, and David Avadon
Composer: James Horner
Air Date: 4/21/1990
Fed up with one another, rival gamblers Reno Crevice (Lance Henriksen) and Sam Forney (Kevin Tighe) decide to settle their differences once and for all. Not content to end their duel with a simple card game, the two men resort to a series of extreme measures (i.e. Russian roulette and chop poker) in order to definitively resolve the most ego-fueled competition of all time.
Despite its status as a fan favorite, “Cutting Cards” can best be summarized as an overlong joke with a punchline that barely justifies the twenty minutes which it receives. The campy but commendable performances of Lance Henriksen and Kevin Tighe will, however, appeal to Tales from the Crypt fans who prefer black humor over excellent storytelling.
After Reno enters a casino in sync with James Horner’s goofy synthesizer music, Forney makes his introduction as a snide, taunting man who derives great pleasure from rubbing his successes in Reno’s face. In contrast, Reno comes across as a no-nonsense cowboy who makes no attempt to hide the fact that Forney’s insults have dealt a tremendous blow to his pride. By capturing the opposing qualities of their respective characters, Tighe and Henriksen lent credibility to the premise that two men could hate each other enough to mutilate their bodies merely to prove a point.
Clever though its primary concept may be, “Cutting Cards” is simply too light on substance to warrant an episode of typical Tales from the Crypt length. Most notably, the antics of Reno and Forney suffer as a result of many drawn-out interactions between the two. To give an example of how an excessive runtime hampers the quality of an otherwise original idea, the chop poker sequence begins on a grimly humorous note, but eventually loses its shock value after a finger-severing effect is employed three times in the same scene. Had this episode been whittled down and repackaged as a short(er) film, perhaps the aforementioned problems with pacing could have been prevented.
Pride goes before the fall in this case, and while the measures that Reno and Forney take while attempting to prove their superiority over one another can only be described as ludicrous, the actions of these men serve as a testament to how old grudges can evolve into poisonous obsessions if left unchecked.
An amusing but overrated episode, “Cutting Cards” contains enough dark humor to satisfy Tales from the Crypt fans. That being said, those who prefer stories of a more substantive nature would be wise to avoid this effort for its utter lack of a meaningful narrative.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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