Rian Johnson doesn’t miss! Yeah, I know you anti-LAST JEDI fans will whine, and riot, and protest at the notion of that. But tough crap. I liked it, and I like Johnson’s body of work. If BRICK, LOOPER, GLASS ONION, and KNIVES OUT can’t convince you of his talent, then you’re missing out. Because that talent shines through in each of those terrific films, and now his newest project: a procedural mystery show called POKER FACE.
POKER FACE is a true collaboration between creator and actor, with Johnson’s snappy dialogue being natural as hell out of the mouth of series star and genius talent Natasha Lyonne. The first episode introduces us to Lyonne’s character Charlie Cale. A whip-smart, sparkplug of a character, fueled by the wit of the writing and the commitment of Lyonne. Essentially a human lie detector and a mess of a human being, but a genuinely good person overall, Cale is a terrific addition for Johnson to add to his repertoire of likable characters, from The Rainmaker to Benoit Blanc. By the finale of this episode, you simply want to see more of her character immediately.
The first episode introduces us to a murder and a few shady individuals immediately. In fact, the prologue of the episode doesn’t even introduce us to our hero. We’re not introduced to her until the second act, where Johnson pulls a GLASS ONION (you’ll see what I mean). And as the story continues, we can’t look away. We simply just are engrossed with every detail about Charlie, regardless of whether it’s exposition-heavy or not. It’s all just fascinating from the get-go. Which speaks to Johnson’s ability to craft a good story and good characters.
Apart from Lyonne, the rest of the cast in this episode is terrific! Particularly the smarmy performance from Adrian Brody. Brody makes you despise him from the very minute you meet him. He’s quite excellent at that, as folks can see through his work in films like GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Benjamin Bratt, who plays Brody’s enforcer, plays against type here and is actually quite menacing. And Dascha Polanco does a terrific job as Natalie as well! The less we say about that, the better.
Overall with a stellar lead performance by Natasha Lyonne, a terrific supporting cast, a compelling script and direction from Johnson, and most importantly, one hell of a main character, POKER FACE is all Aces!
The first four episodes of POKER FACE are now available to stream on Peacock.