“7 Days to Vegas” (2019) tells the up and down story of Duke (Vincent Van Patten) and how he ends up in an all-or-nothing bet that will grant salvation of finally ruin him.
Or, more accurately, Duke tells the story through narration that persists through the entire movie.
Arguably, this is necessary for a movie that deals with a sub-culture like gambling and whose central dramatic plot is a proposition bet that might seem completely implausible to those not familiar with gamblers and what they are willing to wager. It could also be said that movies like “California Split” and “The Gambler” have done a fine job of establishing their protagonists’ willingness to bet on anything (the seven dwarfs bet in “California Split” comes to mind) without the need to explain everything with voiceover.
This is all just for debate, though, because narrate is what the director Eric Balfour has Vincent Van Patten doing.
Duke goes from actor with some mild success to a has been doing infomercials, to just a has been. But Duke is an affable guy with a knack both for attracting players to his home poker game and enough skill to beat them out of their money.
With the aid of his convivial wife KC (Eileen Davidson, married to Vincent in real life), Duke sees his stable of players increase both in raw number and in the size of their bank rolls. A central part of the attraction of Duke’s growing game are the creative proposition bets that players participate in, both financially and physically.
As the name implies, a prop bet is a wager made on the proposition that event has or has not happened, or a feat can or cannot be done. A hallmark of a group of gamblers is their willingness to bet on a wide array of things. The social club this Web site is built around is no exception. We have bet on weight loss, current events, who will spend the least amount of time in their Las Vegas hotel room over the course of a weekend trip, and how many of our kids someone could successfully name from memory.
Anyone that is part of a gaming group will recognize the dynamics in play with Duke and his friends, enjoy their hijinks, and envy the action. Those that are not can still appreciate the collection of personalities that Duke has assembled, and their willingness to put significant money at risk.
Eventually the game moves out of Duke’s house and into the upper level of a swank Beverly Hills bar. The personalities get bigger, too. Beyond a small time magician (Willie Garson) and his name-dropping publicist brother Carl (James Van Patten, brother to Vincent in real life) new players include colorful names like Angry Jim and Squeeze, and successful figures in the entertainment industry. One in particular, is movie director Sebastian (Ross McCall).
Sebastian is a foil to Duke, not just in terms of his Hollywood success and wealth, but also in how he approaches the game and the gamblers in it. While Duke happy to drink along with his friends and play on the level, Sebastian is more keen to see them get drunk and use that to his advantage. Duke shears sheep, Sebastian wants to slaughter.
At some point this includes stealing the game itself out from under Duke. That strains Duke financially, and coupled with the rivalry between the two, leads to the prop bet that defines the movie and gives it its title. Duke bets Sebastian that he can walk from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 7 days.
Duke stands to win $5 million if he can complete the walk. The challenge strains his marriage, his friendships, and his endurance. His cohorts use it as a backdrop for more gambling and carousing. There are attempts to influence the bet, changes in stakes, and a surprise appearance or two.
If that sounds like fun to you (and it does to me) you will enjoy the rest of the movie.
I know I did, and no amount of narration can ruin that for me.