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THE GAMBLER: Movie Review

The Gambler Image202

A mood-setting piece that’s more about fearless redemption than gambling!

Off the bat, I’ve never seen Karel Reisz’s 1974 version starring James Caan, so, I cannot lay out any comparisons. However, Rupert Wyatt (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) does seem to have an interesting presentation enough to make me want to seek out the original and provide it a watch.

Truth be told, anyone who says there isn’t an alluring appeal to gambling has probably never been in and/or around a casino setting. It’s an interesting environment where there’s no such thing as half-assing it. You’re either in, or out! No excuses. It elevates anxiety to levels only someone involved can explain, but that’s part of the package, along with orgasmic feelings of chest-pounding success if all goes according to plan. If you sink, well, you know it’s a harsh reality and move on with nothing but haunting thoughts about money and how it basically runs everything and anything circulating around your life. Of course depending how deep you’re in, it MAY also have your life up as collateral.

Literature professor by day, gambler by night, Jim Bennett’s (Mark Wahlberg) debt causes a whirlwind of harsh complexities as he struggles to overcome odds beyond his control.


Honestly, I don’t know why “The Gambler” title if the film really isn’t about gambling per se. The subject-matter only seems to be peripheral as the actual story pretty much embarks on fearless redemption. The layout to this entire piece stems more on a self-loathing man (Bennett) who’s bothered by his life of wealth and privilege and luring him into a world of underdog survival, even if it isn’t legally allowed. Taking up gambling as a side-gig from what he really does as a profession, his walk along the darker side of life links him to dangerous scenarios that ultimately lead up to him digging himself deeper into a hole of shit – and one that my cause him his life.

Framed with a countdown clock, the film is filled with inevitable outcomes that entail threats from nudging bad-asses (Michael K. Williams, John Goodman, and Alvin Ing), and a layer of ease from those who seem to be his only way out (Brie Larson and Anthony Kelley). With a noiresq appeal, “The Gambler” has a mood that can be engaging, but loses grip on pacing, smeared with occasional clichés, and feeds off predictability. However, the strength in the film comes from solid performances, dialog, character objectives, and of course Mark Wahlberg – whose tough-guy dialog, chiseled presentation, and stone cold appeal helps not only the character, but the film as a whole.

“The Gambler” isn’t anything you’ll wind up flipping over for, but it provides style, strength, and sketchy look into one of many forms of addiction that may find one hard to undo once you’re in too deep.


Grade: B- / Genre: Remake, Suspense, Drama / Rated: R / Run Time: 1 Hr. 40 Min.

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson, Jessica Lange, John Goodman, Michael K. Williams

Directed by: Rupert Wyatt

Paramount Pictures

The Gambler First OneSheet