2021, Movies

Dirty Tricks (2021, Daniel Sivan)

This is an entertaining and fairly even-handed documentary about a bridge cheating scandal back in 2015. It’s a fascinating story reminiscent of that recent poker scandal where the player claimed to be using his intuition and those who accused him claimed he couldn’t be so lucky.

Though the film is recent, it does a pretty good job of making it seem like it was made at the time. (One of the benefits of this era is that there is footage of everything.) So whereas a film like this made 15 years ago or older would basically be talking heads and recreations, this actually has a lot of footage from the scandal. (They also do a pretty good job with their recreations so you don’t really notice them.)

The film works really hard to be even-handed, it humours both the accused bridge players and those accusing them of cheating. It’s really hard to do this well and most documentaries either don’t aspire to this level of neutrality or just give up by end. But this film is content to force you to ask yourself who you believe. That’s one of its biggest strengths.

Another one is how many questions it prompts:

  • How easy is it to cheat at bridge?
  • If it is this easy to cheat at bridge, are the cheaters really the only ones at fault or does competitive bridge need to change?
  • Is this era of filming everything actually good for transparency or are there unforeseen consequences? To wit, whether or not the two players at the centre of this film cheated, is it possible that now people are obsessively watching bridge videos and seeing patterns where they don’t exist? (The same could be said about poker or any other competitive card game.)

And there’s more. It’s a provocative flim.

My only real complaint – aside from too many shirtless bridge players – is that I am a layperson and don’t know anything about bridge. I would have appreciated some more detail on the rules and on the scoring. Jenn thinks they were right to resist the temptation to explain and she might be right as the film is likely more entertaining this way. But I did feel at a bit of a loss early on as to what they were being accused of.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.