Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Movie Review: "The Gambler" (2014)

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Movie"The Gambler"
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a university literature professor and the grandson of one of the wealthiest men in California. Jim is also a high-stakes gambler who has found himself $260,000 in debt to two separate but equally dangerous loan sharks. He now has 7 days to pay off these debts, or it could cost him his life. 

We left "The Gambler" feeling mixed about the movie. The character of Jim Bennett isn't the most likable guy in the world. He has had a privileged upbringing and makes a six-figure income, and yet he is willing to squander it all and risk not only his own life but the lives of the people he is supposed to care about, for a couple hands of Blackjack or a spin on the roulette wheel. He spends his day pontificating and espousing his ideas about life and being and having the greatness to his students, but then he'll turn around and say something about how he knows he's on a path to self-destruction. Bennett is truly an arrogant and self-centered man who is not part of a great movie remake, anyway. While there is some other definite standout acting by the likes of the great John Goodman and his brilliant "fuck you" speech, as well as Michael Kenneth Williams, who serves as this movie's bad guys in the form of loan sharks, "The Gambler" suffers from the "if we don't buy the main character, it's hard to overlook the movie's believability" syndrome. Mark Wahlberg as an experienced literature professor and apparent needer of waxing poetic? The gambling part, sure, but the teaching park? We just don't buy it coming from Marky Mark! Really, he's just a whiny pseudo-intellectual with an obvious penchant for screwing his students. This time, the person in his sights is Brie Larson, who is wholly underutilized as Bennett's student and love interest Amy. She doesn't have enough screen time, and this is to the film's detriment.

Coming from personal experience, the life of a gambler is not a glorious one. This movie makes no bones about the fact that it sucks to be in debt, and that it sucks to owe loan sharks, and that it sucks to have almost enough to pay off your debts but then dump it all on one last spin of the slot machine. But then, on the flip side, in the end, gambling walks away from it all glorified, not vilified, as it should be. Knowing someone who is a gambler will teach you a thing or two about how not to live your life. Gambling kills people, and maybe not in the literal sense of the word, but it breaks people down, dollar by dollar, cent by cent until there's nothing left except the car that houses them. It's a thrill, we get that having been to Las Vegas, and judging by this movie, it's a dangerous thrill to be addicted to. Getting sucked into the flashing lights and clanging coins, seeing the plumes of cigarette smoke rise up from the crowds that are watching you win and lose and come up and come down on your spirit, it's a frenetic experience, but the movie can't have it both ways, which it attempts to do over and over again, hindering our overall feelings of the film itself. All in all, there are better movies out there to watch and we will eventually get around to seeing the original with James Caan, which we hear is slightly better.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 46%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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