The Gambler starring Mark Wahlberg is a remake of the 1974 original. In this version Wahlberg plays an English Literature professor, Jim Bennett, who leads a double life as a gambler who doesn’t seem to know when to say no. His inability to walk away from the table leads him into borrowing money from the wrong kinda folks and he finds himself needing to raise a little over £250k in seven days. His life is made all the more complicated because one of his students works as a waitress at one of his haunts.
The film looks at Bennett’s relationship with gambling and what drives him to behave in the way he does. He comes from a wealthy background, he has a well paid job and he’s a published writer but that doesn’t satisfy him. He doesn’t have what many would consider ‘real problems’ and your ability to accept this premise will go a long way to decide if you will engage with this movie or not.
I checked out some other reviews after watching the film and I think it is fair to say the overall response has been negative. I am going to buck the trend by saying I didn’t mind it. The 2015 (or 2014 in the US) version is suffering in part because of comparisons to the original. I haven’t seen the original so don’t carry any baggage.
The positives are a better than normal performance from Mr Wahlberg who I think delivers some fun lectures which have a distinct truth to them. He handles the dramatic scenes well although he continues to frustrate me in the sense I never know if his next release is going to be any good or not. John Goodman steals the show as one of the loan sharks who unlike Bennett has learned from his mistakes and oddly seems to care for him on some level.
The biggest flaw with The Gambler is he whole I can’t accept anything other than total success schtick which gets a bit repetitive and makes Wahlberg’s character sound a little whiny. The transition his character makes towards the end is a little sudden and could have been improved if we got rid of some of the introspective stuff and focused more on his relationship with his student Amy (Brie Larson). I believe the underlying issue was that film was being used as a vehicle for Wahlberg to show his serious side at the expense of the narrative.
Overall The Gambler is a solid albeit not spectacular effort that is probably deserving of a little more respect. My rating 3/5.