Verbose to a fault, ‘West Wing’ creator’s directorial debut is nonetheless enthralling

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“Molly’s Game” moves so fast it could get arrested for speeding.

The directorial debut of Chatty Cathy Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “The Social Network”) is a word assault, using sentences like ammunition and shooting up the screen for the entirety of its running time. Sorkin uses words like John Woo uses bullets, and “Molly’s Game” is his “Hard Boiled.”

In the based-on-real-events tale, Jessica Chastain plays Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who nuked her back and wound up running an illegal high stakes poker game for an elite clientele of actors and athletes. When she gets busted by the Feds, she refuses to name names, sticking to her guns even when it doesn’t seem to be in her own self-interest.

Sorkin is better at putting words in his character’s mouths than he is at creating characters. Idris Elba plays Bloom’s lawyer, a dull stock character who gets to bite into a meaty monologue the character never earns, while Kevin Costner plays Bloom’s father, who shows up out of the blue one night in a contrivance so daffy you’ll think it’s a dream sequence. Michael Cera kills, however, as one of Bloom’s poker clients; sometime around “This is the End,” Cera began specializing in characters that seem to be parodies of Michael Cera, and there’s no one better at playing that role than him.

Chastain is tough and powerful in a no-nonsense role (not unlike last year’s “Miss Sloane”), though Sorkin’s rendering of her cuts corners for the sake of convenience. The story is juicy enough on its own and Sorkin’s words are witty, but “Molly’s Game” never manages to dig in beneath its surface.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Molly’s Game’

GRADE: B

Rated R for language, drug content and some violence

Running time: 140 minutes

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