Joe Sullivan finds himself in a situation where no gambler wants to be, being shut off around town and needing to pay his debts to his bookie Seamus by the end of the night. Desperate and determined, Joe has Monica, the woman he loves, take his life savings to a bookie across town. Monica meets Joe at the bar with his money, afraid of how desperate Joe has become. He tells her to make the play on the Lakers’ game, then meet him at his childhood movie theater after the game is over, winnings or not. What she doesn’t know is that if the Lakers lose the game, Joe will lose his life. Joe meets Seamus, and his two enforcers, PAUL and KEVIN, outside the theater. He tells Seamus that despite being shut off, he managed to get one more bet in with another bookie across town. If he wins, Seamus will get paid in full. If he loses, Seamus can do what he wants with him.
Seamus agrees to let Joe go see the movie with his goon Kevin to make sure he doesn’t take off before the final credits. When the film is over, Joe will either “pay or pay.” During the movie, California Split, a 70’s gambling movie, Joe has an epiphany that no matter how much he wins, it’s never going to be enough. After the movie ends, he admits defeat and gets in the car. Seamus assumes he lost the bet, but Joe never bothers to find out if the Lakers won or lost. When Seamus makes a comment about who Joe should have bet on, Joe tells Seamus it doesn’t matter; he would have just blown it anyway.
As they drive away, Joe sees an excited Monica walking toward the theater with Joe’s winnings. Joe smiles thinly in silent acquiescence. She will keep it all and start a new life for herself. The movie ends with Monica under the marquee, her hopes of seeing Joe again fading.
Written by John J. Lynch (USA)