Friday, December 26, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: The Gambler

MOVIE REVIEW:
The Gambler
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The current holiday season 
has offered a slew of potential 
blockbusters featuring an array 
of big-names  including the
Christmas Day release of The 
Gambler, starring the super-
chiseled and ever-bankable, 
Mark Wahlberg.
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Director Rupert Wyatt performs a modern-day "nip and tuck" on the 1974 original with his latest film, The Gambler. Boasting an impressive cast that features John Goodman, Jessica Lange and George Kennedy, The Gambler also delivers (the occasionally shirtless) Mark Wahlberg in the starring role — the rather "troubled," Jim Bennett.

Wahlberg's character, Jim Bennett, is 
dealt a tough hand in The Gambler.
As I stood in line at my local cineplex, clutching an opening night ticket, I caught the attention of two of my hometown gal pals who were just leaving an earlier showing — and they simply could NOT conceal their lack of enthusiasm for The Gambler. I was bummed out by their passionate post-screening observations for three reasons: A) I'd just paid $8.75 for a ticket, and I hate shelling out that kind of scratch on crappy movies. B) It was Christmas night, and I hate sitting through crappy movies on Christmas. C) I'm a HUGE fan of (the occasionally shirtless) Wahlberg, and I was really looking forward to seeing this movie.

Brie Larson is delightful as Bennett's 
love interest,  Amy Phillips.
Jessica Lange is rivetting as 
Bennett's mother, Roberta.
L.A. college literature professor Jim Bennett has a couple of problems — he's a nearly-broke, grown-up, spoiled rich kid with an enormous gambling addiction, he owes more than $250K to the wrong guys — and he's only got seven days to "figure it out." Along the way, Bennett encounters a cluster of compelling characters — and therein lies the film's strength and weakness.

Wahlberg's performance is top notch, to be sure. However, we don't get to look deeply enough into his character's seemingly complex back story to really care whether or not he prevails in the end at least not until the film's final few minutes. Bennett's onscreen connection with love interest, Amy Phillips, played by Brie Larson, oozes steamy tension, yet the presented picture of their budding relationship seems incomplete and somewhat awkward. And while there already is Oscar buzz surrounding Jessica Lange's performance as Bennett's mother, Roberta, we just aren't allowed to get close enough to connect with her character completely.

Michael K. Williams is cold as ice as Neville.
John Goodman steals the show as the 
"no nonsense" loan shark, Frank.
John Goodman delivers perhaps the most powerful and gripping performance in the role of "no nonsense" loan shark, Frank. In fact, The Gambler could likely have truly been a bona fide winner, had Frank been the story's primary character. George Kennedy does a fine job in his opening cameo performance as Bennett's dying grandfather, Ed. However, once again, despite being an important character in the story, Ed simply ain't around long enough to connect all of the pertinent dots.

In sum, I did NOT see eye-to-eye with my gal pals' assessment of The Gambler. For me, the story was rather compelling, the cast provided stellar performances and there was plenty of suspense and a reasonable payoff at the end making it at least worth the $8.75 admission price. Simply put, The Gambler is certainly no Four Brothers, but thank goodness, it's no Rock Star either. 

-Christopher Long
(December 2014)

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Check out my other 
2014 movie reviews:

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