Classic performances by Steve McQueen, Karl Malden and Edward G. Robinson, along with an impressive supporting cast, lend character and depth to a deceptively straight forward plot. Hunter's (McQueen) quest to become "the man" is complicated by the people, both sympathetic and avaricious, who are drawn into his orbit. Yet, the plot remains focused as all converge on the big match, and the players dwindle to the head to head clash that will decide much more than the outcome of a simple game of cards. Raw and gritty, this film is a wonderful period piece of both Depression Era society in general and simmering, sultry New Orleans in specific. The characters are interesting and colorful; and like most outstanding movies, what you get out of it is what you read between the lines. This movie is to Rounders what The Hustler is to The Color of Money.