SCRIPTWRITING maestro Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) steps behind the camera for the first time with an entertaining, relentlessly loquacious look at one woman’s outrageous true story that feels tailor made for cinema.

That woman is Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), who was on track to becoming an Olympic skiing champion – at the behest of her ultra-demanding father (Kevin Costner) – were it not for a freak accident on the slopes. This set her on a very different career path involving Russian mobsters, tabloid scandal and the prospect of a lengthy jail term – all because of her time running the most exclusive poker game in the world. And it’s all true … almost.

It gives you a lot of chips for your buy-in; a compelling story that jumps back and forth in time, a detailed look inside a poker world reserved for the kinds of world-famous actors, athletes and businessmen that so desperately went all-in on Molly’s “decadent man cave”, and the thrill of listening to Sorkin’s trademark snappy, propulsive dialogue that demands you keep up.

“You look like the cat that ate the canary and then told the canary’s parents about it,” says Molly’s shrewd yet by-the-book lawyer Charlie Jaffey – played with a kind of coolness teetering on the edge of exasperation by Idris Elba – when discussing Molly’s tell-nearly-all memoir upon which the film is based. It’s this kind of zinger dialogue that has made Sorkin arguably the most recognisable screenwriting name in the business.

This is Sorkin through and through, each character turned into a motor-mouth of witticism, savage put-downs and vocal one-upmanship, all made to sound convincing due to an expertly chosen cast. Using them as a tool and led by a riveting central performance by Chastain that would pair well with her work in last year’s underrated Miss Sloane, it looks at what happens when a savvy woman enters a male-dominated playground.

She hits brick walls of misogyny with male colleagues and players, batting away sexual advances and attempts at undermining her rising control, first from her pig-headed boss and original runner of her game, Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), to an expert gambler referred to as Player X, performed with icky slyness by Michael Cera but hinting at a real-life “green-screened little shit”. Have fun trying to guess who it’s really supposed to be.

It’s an undoubtedly indulgent and at times unwieldy film, clocking in at an overlong 140 minutes, indicative of a debut where dialogue is still the maker’s primary strength. But when the dealer hands out such entertaining razzle-dazzle verbal exchanges, it’s easy to overlook some uneven play.