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Shade is a 2003 American neo-noir crime thriller film directed and written by Damian Nieman and starring Stuart Townsend, Gabriel Byrne, Thandie Newton, Jamie Foxx, Melanie Griffith and Sylvester Stallone. The film follows a trio of grifters who attempt to set up a legendary card sharp nicknamed "The Dean". The film had a limited release in the United States on May 7, 2004.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byDamian Nieman
Produced byChris Hammond
Ted Hartley
David Schnepp
Written byDamian Nieman
StarringStuart Townsend
Gabriel Byrne
Thandie Newton
Jamie Foxx
Melanie Griffith
Sylvester Stallone
Music byJames Johnzen
Distributed byDEJ Productions
Release date
  • April 25, 2003 (2003-04-25) (United States Film Festival)
  • May 7, 2004 (2004-05-07) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$459,098[1][2]


Many years ago, a young Dean is playing in a mob-run illegal underground poker game. The game is raided by robbers who order everyone to put up their hands. The Dean reluctantly does so, revealing the card he's concealed. Incensed, a fellow player grabs a gun and starts shooting, setting off a firefight that kills everyone in the club except the Dean and one of the mobsters. The two men point their guns at each other's heads.

In present day, hustlers Tiffany (Thandie Newton) and Charlie (Gabriel Byrne) meet up with Larry Jennings (Jamie Foxx) as he's taking down an underground poker game. They discuss a partnership to work a "soft game" with a potential profit of $10,000-$20,000, and Larry tentatively agrees pending his meeting the third member of the group, Vernon (Stuart Townsend), a card mechanic who is working as a Las Vegas blackjack dealer. With a small crew, Vernon switches out the contents of a six deck shoe and they take the casino for $40,000. As Vernon and Charlie wait for Larry at another bar, corrupt cop Scarne (Bo Hopkins) shakes them down and empties Vernon's wallet, but Vernon saves the bulk of his money as it's stashed in his boot. Larry arrives shortly after Scarne leaves and after seeing Vernon's skills agrees to team with them. The plan is for Larry to take down large pots on Vernon's crooked deals.

At the game, Larry gets impatient with the slow action and, on his own deal, gets over $100,000 in the pot. Unfortunately he loses, and the money he bet belongs to a mobster named Malini (Patrick Bauchau), who sends his enforcers, Marlo (Roger Guenveur Smith) and Nate (B-Real), to retrieve him. They take him to the house, which has been stripped bare. Everyone at the game was in on the con. The enforcers take Larry to an airport and under cover of the jet noise, kill him.

Charlie continues the story from the prologue, where Dean and the mobster agree to cut cards for the money. The mobster cuts a King and Dean cuts the Ace of spades. The mobster goes for his gun but Dean gets to his first, shooting the mobster and splashing the Ace with his blood. The three speculate that the story is an urban legend. They talk about taking the Dean (Sylvester Stallone) down at a game with a $250,000 buy-in and total stakes of at least $2,000,000. After Vernon's departure, it's revealed that he and Tiffany had been lovers until Vernon left and Tiffany slept with Charlie.

The next day, Malini's enforcers track down Charlie to a restaurant and Marlo demands the return of Marini's money. Charlie agrees to pay back $100,000 but instead Nate pulls a gun and a gunfight ensues. Tiffany arrives in time to kill Nate, but Marlo escapes. Charlie, Vernon and Tiffany run away and hide out at the Magic Castle with The Professor (Hal Holbrook), Vernon's former mentor. Scarne intrudes into the murder scene and he realizes that the three are involved from the description of the witnesses.

The three arrive at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for the game, where they discover that the host is Malini. One by one, Vernon and the Dean bust the other players until they're heads up and they decide to play five card stud for the rest of the game. Dean's former lover Eve (Melanie Griffith) arrives, and they take a break. The three grifters talk about the trouble Vernon is having getting the Dean to bite and Tiffany speculates the cards are marked. Grabbing some cards, Vernon discovers the Dean is using a "juice deck," a deck marked to be readable when one's eyes are unfocused. They return to the game prepared to use the deck against the Dean.

In the final hand, Vernon mucks a card and deals the hand. He deals the Dean two pair, Kings and Queens (with one King in the hole), and himself a pair of Jacks with a 7 in the hole for the Dean to see. The Dean goes all in, and when Vernon is $50,000 short Charlie and Tiffany make up the shortfall so he can call the bet. Before the cards are turned up, Scarne arrives at the hotel and Marlo enters the room. Identifying the three as the team who conned Larry, Malini's muscle pull their guns and Tiffany pulls hers, then Scarne enters with his gun drawn. The Dean insists that the hand be completed and Vernon swaps out his hole card 7 for a third Jack, which would beat the two pair he'd dealt the Dean. The room is stunned when the Dean turns up a third Queen to take the hand and a $2,000,000 pot. Malini tells the three they can leave but advises them to stay out of the Los Angeles rackets.

Charlie splits up the partnership with Vernon and, after Marlo's revelation that he was tipped off by Tiffany about shaking down Larry, with her as well. As Vernon sits alone in a diner, The Dean, Eve and Scarne enter, revealing the game was all an elaborate setup by the four of them to con Charlie and Tiffany. They split the take and part, the Dean and Eve leaving together. The Dean pauses to flip the blood-stained Ace of spades to Vernon.

The majority of the characters in this film are named after famous magicians. Charlie Miller, Larry Jennings, (John) Scarne, Max Malini, (Ed) Marlo and (Dai) Vernon were all well known magicians. Dai Vernon is depicted by two characters in this film: Vernon and The Professor.[3]



The Shade soundtrack features three original works, "Penumbra," "Moon Rocks" and "Red Reflections", composed and recorded by jazz composer and flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny. The band "The Golden Ratio" together with composer Ken Rangkuty wrote two original works, "Licentious" and "Never", for the soundtrack.


Box officeEdit

Shade was open for only five weeks in six theaters, and it grossed $459,098 in worldwide ticket sales.[1][2]

The film was produced by RKO Pictures in 2003 and released in the USA on 21 June 2003 at the CineVegas International Film Festival. It began its limited release theatrical run on 7 May 2004.[4]

Critical receptionEdit

The film currently holds a 67% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

Home mediaEdit

It is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.[4]


  1. ^ a b c "Shade". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  2. ^ a b "Shade (2004) International Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  3. ^ Shade (2003), retrieved 2018-09-14
  4. ^ a b "Shade". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-05-11.
  5. ^ "Shade". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-05-11.

External linksEdit