Suspenseful yet frustrating, The Gambler is a slick remake of the classic 1974 film of the same name. Starring Mark Wahlberg as a self-destructive English professor with an addiction to high stakes gambling, we struggle to see the good in a character who seems to never learn.
Considering his good job, wealthy background and great head of hair, Wahlberg’s Jim Bennett has more issues than most men. He’s self-loathing, reckless and above all, suicidal. Every decision he makes is a bad one, and he knows it. What’s most frustrating about this character is that he never learns, and frankly doesn’t seem to care. This may be a neurosis exclusive to those with hefty trust funds, but Bennett does a great job in convincing himself he’s more complex than that. If the goal is to have the audience tearing their hair out, then Wahlberg does a truly excellent job. It’s undeniable that he’s playing a wholly unlikeable character, so it’s testament to Wahlberg’s acting that he manages to bring the tiniest semblance of charm to this performance. But only just enough to make the somewhat repetitive story worthwhile.
Like gambling itself, for much of the film the story seems to have no end game. Even with the resolution, there are still so many lingering questions about how any of the events would come about. Regardless, the script itself is decent enough, with some intense soliloquys to remind us that acting is happening. It’s no surprise that the show is stolen by the ever formidable John Goodman. He plays one of the many people to whom a debt is owed, and brings a sinister quietness to the role that’s more terrifying than any Korean shakedown. Goodman seems to be typecast as the voice of reason recently, and here he shows himself to be just that, but with a team of men ready to break your neck. Shot in what is assumed to be LA, driving is a big feature of the movie. Unlike a lot of LA movies, this does very little to move the story forward, which seems to be the problem for the other secondary elements. A decent amount seems to be inconsequential to the story or the characters.
Despite its downfalls, The Gambler remains a dynamic and infuriating film with a killer soundtrack.
The Gambler is released nationwide on 23rd January 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Gambler here: