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.
Continue reading: The Gambler (1974) Review
Army vet Nick Garcos (Richard Conte) has just come back to his hometown of Fresno, bringing with him presents that he acquired working as a mechanic on a ship in the Far East. Everyone's happy to see him and receive his shower of gifts and cash from his beaming-with-pride parents to his extremely blonde girlfriend Polly (Barbara Lawrence), who's upset initially to only receive a doll and then beams with joy when Nick points out the ring the doll is holding. Then Nick mentions the Mandarin slippers that he brought for his dad and everyone goes quiet. Turns out there's a reason that his dad hasn't stood up since Nick got home, he delivered a truckload of produce to a produce dealer in San Francisco, Mike Figlia, who refused to pay, got Papa Garcos roaring drunk, and sent him on the road, where he crashed and had to have his legs amputated. Nick vows to get even if he has to "gouge the money out of Mike Figlia's corpse."
Continue reading: Thieves' Highway Review