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The Gambler Review


With a strangely simplistic screenplay by William Monahan (The Departed), director Rupert Wyatt and his cast struggle to dig beneath the surface in a meaningful way. Mark Wahlberg does what he can in the lead role as a self-destructive gambling addict, but since he's never remotely likeable it's impossible to care what happens to him. It's decently made, but without strong characters or a resonant message the movie ultimately feels like a vanity project that's gone wrong somewhere along the way.

Wahlberg plays Jim, a swaggering university professor who torments his brightest student Amy (Larson) in front of the whole class. But she knows that he's also unable to pass a blackjack table without losing a small fortune. And it's probably money he owes to someone. Indeed, he's accruing such severe debts to a gangster (Michael Kenneth Williams) that he turns to his millionaire mother (Jessica Lange) for help, knowing that if she gives him the cash he'll gamble it away before settling his accounts. So he also turns to tough loan shark Frank (John Goodman), who stresses to Jim the importance of paying up and getting out of the betting world for good. But Jim seems incapable of even a shred of self-control.

It's virtually impossible to connect with a character this one-sided. Aside from his literary intelligence, there's nothing remotely redeeming about Jim, so it's difficult to escape the feeling that he's getting just what he deserves. And it gets worse when he starts romancing Amy, a nubile girl barely half his age. Wahlberg never plays Jim as anything but an unapologetic loser who has orchestrated his own misfortune. So why should we care what happens to him? At least the side characters interject a bit of complexity, most notably Lange and Goodman, who command the entire film with just a couple of scenes each. The usually terrific Larson barely registers in an underwritten role that makes very little logical sense.

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Mark Wahlberg Praises 'The Gambler' Remake

Mark Wahlberg William Monahan

Remaking and rebooting older films is the bread and butter of modern Hollywood. Once in a while, a filmmaker decides to approach a previously known work in order to retell the story in a different way or look at the same themes from a different angle. Sometimes, this approach will land a screenwriter with a serious prize, as William Monahan discovered when he adapted Hong Kong's 'Infernal Affairs' into 'The Departed' and won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Mark Wahlberg in 'The Gambler'
Mark Wahlberg in 'The Gambler'

Monahan has returned to write the screenplay for a remake of 1974's 'The Gambler', and lead actor Mark Wahlberg (who also starred in 'The Departed'), couldn't have more praise for the writer. "I mean, I was a really huge fan of the original" said Wahlberg, "but I felt that Bill Monahan did a really amazing job of bringing something different to it."

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Picture - Writer and William Monahan -... New York City New York United States, Wednesday 10th December 2014

Writer and William Monahan - New York premiere of 'The Gambler' at The AMC Lincoln Square - Arrivals - New York City, New York, United States - Wednesday 10th December 2014