The Gambler

The Gambler

In Theatres: 
Dec 25, 2014
Running Time: 
111 minutes
Kenny Rogers said it best. Knowing the difference between holding and folding, walking away and running. Gambling can be a dangerous and addictive hobby, especially the underground illegal kind where being in debt could result in mobsters coming over to your house to break your legs or even worse. For English professor Jim Bennett  (Mark Wahlberg) things are about the worst they can be.

The Gambler is a remake of the 1974 film by the same name and follows the downward spiral of Jim Bennett. On the surface, he is an intelligent and well-respected professor of English who appears to be doing well in life. In reality, however, his high stakes gambling has him owing over a quarter of a million dollars to gangsters, and they want their money. As his addictive habits push him further and further into debt, his only chance at breaking even is to win big. For him, it’s either win it all or lose it all. There is no middle ground.

The opening scene of the film immediately shows what kind of person Jim is as he continues to bet everything has on a single hand of blackjack, doubling his money everytime he wins only to lose it all when his lucky streak runs out. Refusing to walk away, he borrows money from multiple sources, all of which have equal stake in making sure they get their money back. There’s the house itself, owned by Mr. Lee (Alvin Ing), which Jim has borrowed way past his limit this time around. When they won’t loan him any more money, he goes to gangster Neville Baraka (Michael K. Williams) who has no problem giving him money or killing him if he doesn’t repay it back. Lastly there’s Frank (John Goodman), a notorious mobster who can help Jim consolidate his debts but like Neville, has no qualms with “ending his entire bloodline” as he so eloquently puts it. Things basically get worse and worse for Jim as he aims to strike it big enough to rid himself of all his problems all at once.

The main problem for him is that he doesn’t know when to quit. He comes from an extremely wealthy family, and when his mother (Jessica Lange) gives him the money his needs to be in the clear, he goes to the casino and gambles it all away there. His personality and ego won’t allow him to just take charity like that. His gambling got him into this mess, and he believes his gambling is what will get him out of it.

The Gambler is comprised of one tense moment after another. Everything is on the line with each hand he plays, and more often than not he has to start over from the beginning or some place even worse off. Part of me wants to root for him to win and stick it to his money collectors. The other part of me wants him to lose for being so dumb. There’s this constant back and forth.

While not as dark as the original, The Gambler provides a thrilling and intense ride where everything is on the line at all times. It’s all or nothing; there is no in between, and ultimately the film delivers a winning hand.
Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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