Obsession meets disability--guess which wins
This is the core of Dealt as we learn about Turner's life, including how he lost his vision (he could see as a child) and his growth in the field of card tricks, as his obsessive desire to improve his skills pushed him further and further. We also learn how this affects his relationship with his family, including his sister (who also lost her eyesight), and his wife and son (whose name--Asa James Spades--says everything about Turner's obsession). Turner also displays a sensitivity to being referred to as blind, a hang-up that is part of a picture of a man who can certainly be difficult to deal with (no pun intended).
As Turner was something of a media curiosity in the ‘80s, there's a lot of good footage of him (as well as his young son), from shows like That's Incredible!, which Koren puts to good use here in establishing the story efficiently, instead of having to rely on a bunch of talking heads to tell the tale. That leaves open space for plenty of the visually-impressive sleight of hand Turner can show off, along with depictions of how he is surprisingly able to cope with his blindness--his black-belt test among the highlights--while also showing moments of weakness, softening his gruff, out-of-the-spotlight personality. With his stage persona, Turner's not hard to like, but that's not the whole picture.
While Dealt gives a great look at an interesting guy, chronicling Turner's life from childhood to his later years as an adult, and there's plenty about him to pique and keep your interest, the film is a bit light on narrative. At the point of the film's production, though there's a minor late storyline about his hopes to win a magic award that's eluded him, Turner's already been a star and is lauded by his contemporaries, so the film's main purpose is to remind people of someone who was once a media darling, and tell his impressive, yet little-known tale. There's nothing wrong with that, as many great documentaries are solely looking back, rather than being in the moment. It just feels like without a solid through line, it can float a bit at times, and lacks a truly satisfying conclusion.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is most present when it comes to the film's music and score, which spreads the audio out to the surrounds more and gives the low-end something to do. The rest of the time, it's a pretty standard documentary presentation, as the voices are clear and distortion-free, with some minor atmospherics to round things out.
"Magicians & Mechanics" is a 7:45 featurette that simply lets magician and mechanics (including the legendary Johnny Thompson) show of their tricks. It's fascinating to watch them at work, especially when they slow it down for the cameras and you still can't tell how they did it. The talent on display here is just wonderful.
A 2:05 trailer is sure to make people want to watch this film.
The Bottom Line