Jacqueline Brookes

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The Gambler (1974) Review


Excellent
James Toback wrote this long-forgotten look at the gambling mind back in the early 1970s, but it remains one of the most accurate and stirring portraits of the betting mentality ever put to film.

James Caan owns the movie, as a vey charismatic English professor with a bad gambling addiction -- he borrows money from his girlfriend (Lauren Hutton), his mother, and the mob, and invariably he loses it all. Why play? Because of the thrill. In one scene, when he doubles down on 18 during a game of blackjack (for casino novices: this is absolute insanity), our antihero actually wins. Eventually, though, even the best streak goes bust, and it's in Caan's darkest hours that the movie shines the most.

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