"There is something almost poetic as The Gambler progresses through its tense tale"
A nice surprise or an overly wordy risk on a remake that missed the boat?
Well that all depends on what you’re expecting. The Gambler isn’t what you’re probably expecting. While the feel of its story is far from the original and with much less action, it is a particularly smart and philosophical film that doesn’t over glamorise the gambling world or the allure that it has.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Jim Bennett, the offspring of a wealthy family. Jim’s an intelligent literary professor and high-stakes gambler who epitomises self loathing. During the film’s journey, Bennett sinks into debt with various gangsters and loan sharks as he splurges every last cent away on his path to self-destruction.
But it is his knowledge and understanding of his situation that makes this gripping to watch; only when his actions start to threaten the lives of those around him do we see that he actually has cares and begins to take some responsibility. However, by this point he’s in so deep that getting out might cost him everything.
The stakes are aptly high and the use of violence is cleverly placed, so to distract from the action and instead make the audience focus more on what drives this man, we get a glimpse into the personal struggle and how he’s simply unable to help himself, almost resigning himself to inevitability.
It’s the subtleties that hold the key to the success (or indeed failure) of The Gambler, and whether audiences can take anything from it. It’s a great piece of cinema, but one that everyone won’t necessarily enjoy. It may just be the most subtle thriller out there; it isn’t about the rush of addiction but more to do with the consequences and loss that it creates.
Mark Wahlberg may not be perfectly cast in the central role but he manages to deliver a stunning and believable performance. Jessica Lange, as his mother, delivers an equally incredible turn, in a way that’s almost heartbreaking, while John Goodman and Michael Kenneth Williams stand out in their respective gangster roles that bring the darker consequences of Bennett’s actions into sharp focus.
There is something almost poetic as The Gambler progresses through its tense tale, and it is the philosophical dialogue and Wahlberg’s exceptional characterisation that keeps you invested in the outcome.