Mark Wahlberg as Jim Bennett
John Goodman as Frank
Brie Larson as Amy Phillips
Michael K. Williams as Neville Baraka
Jessica Lange as Roberta
Anthony Kelley as Lamar Allen
Alvin Ing as Lee
In theaters December 25
2 1/2 out of 5
Jim Bennett is a high stakes gambler. He spends his nights in the illegal gambling houses of San Francisco. He has the sober and confident demeanor of a man intent on risking it all and not caring what the outcome is. Underneath the surface the recent death of his grandfather may be what is pushing him to risk more and more. He catches the interest of a major loan shark who agrees to front him more betting cash, but he has only seven days to pay it back, or…
By day Jim Bennett is a professor of literature at the local college. He pushes his students not to be ordinary, but caution them that fame can be a curse or a trap. This philosophy possibly stems from the fact that he was a moderately successful writer with a novel under his belt some time ago, but he has yet to try again. In spite of the fact that Jim owes one loan shark, he borrows more money from another benefactor and keeps gambling. The clock is still ticking and ticking. Jim keeps gambling and gambling, getting in deeper and deeper. Will he ever manage to get out of the hole that he’s dug himself into before he really, <i>really</i> has to pay?
The Gambler is a remake of a 1974 film starring James Caan. If you can find it, I would suggest that version over this obvious self-indulgent snooze fest. Mark Wahlberg’s character portrayal is flat and lifeless. The only times you see a glimpse of anything worthy is in his moments in the classroom and even then most of his lectures are more him whining about his lot in life and trying to disguise it as helpful advice. Usually in stories like this you can see how the character’s addiction is destroying his life. In that case you really want to root for that character and hope he gets out from rock bottom and fight his way back. It’s really hard to find anything likable about Wahlberg’s characterization here. He’s cold, unresponsive, driven, with only the tiniest glimpses of humanity. Despite this he still manages to attract the attention of one of his students Amy (Larson), who for some reason in the middle of all his problems can’t seem to keep herself from throwing herself at him. She finally wakes up when in one evening he blows a small fortune that could have gotten him out of his difficulties. He also manages to involve one of his other students, a promising basketball player, into a point shaving scheme. As I’ve said in movies like this you’re hoping for some kind of redemption for this guy, but I kept thinking he should have been whacked by now. I kept asking, could this idiot find any redemption, and yet…
Bottom line, if you are a diehard fan of Mark Wahlberg then this movie will be entertaining for you. He actually looks good in it. For me this movie was entertaining only in that way when you leave your television on in the background for noise when you’re doing something else. Wait for Netflix. One saving grace for this film: THE SOUNDTRACK! The soundtrack is off the hook with tunes from artists such as St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Easy Star All-Stars, and even classic artists like Dinah Washington. If you don’t see this movie I recommend the soundtrack very highly.
Check out the trailer for “THE GAMBLER” below: