Helpless addict or smooth hustler? Mark Wahlberg tries to have it both ways in The Gambler | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Helpless addict or smooth hustler? Mark Wahlberg tries to have it both ways in The Gambler 

"Is this your card?" Michael K. Williams is Neville, a streetwise loan shark, in The Gambler.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

"Is this your card?" Michael K. Williams is Neville, a streetwise loan shark, in The Gambler.

In the remake of 1974's THE GAMBLER, Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) directs a reworked screenplay by William Monahan. Not knowing when to stand, the film doubles down on narrative bets until its plot and protagonist go bust.

Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a self-loathing author and English professor at an unnamed Los Angeles college. His personal life is in shambles due to his longstanding gambling addiction.

Jim borrows and wagers his way into debt to Korean mobsters and a streetwise loan shark named Neville (Michael K. Williams), and his options to escape bodily harm or worse become limited. When his wealthy mother Roberta (Jessica Lange) loans him money to get out of hock, he promptly blows it all at the blackjack table. So Jim hits up the foreboding Frank (John Goodman), who sternly warns Jim that it's only a matter of time before he'll welch on that debt, too, requiring Frank to permanently cancel Jim's account.

The supporting cast is riveting: Goodman and Lange haven't had roles this meaty in years, and they obligingly chew the scenery. But The Gambler rises and falls with Wahlberg, whose irritating interpretation makes Jim both unlikeable and inscrutable. He's mostly a self-destructive mess with a deathwish, projecting his inner tumult onto his family and students, especially Amy (Brie Larson), who promptly takes a shine to her degenerate teach.

However, Wahlberg can't help but portray the cool of a con man—that's how he usually plays his roles. His conflicting take is exacerbated by a climactic grift that makes you wonder if Jim had more control over his chronic, unmanageable illness than previously suggested, and this undermines much of the character development. We're left wondering what really conquers his demons: love, fear or simply a desire to stretch the film's running time.

This article appeared in print with the headline "(Escape) Home for the holidays."

Tags:

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Who said the themes are wrath, cataclysm and redemption? Three Billboards may not be the brilliant film some think, but …

by Scott Mooneyham on The Tonally Incoherent Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Hasn't a Clue How to Manage Its Weighty Themes and Discordant Plot (Film Review)

I'd be more interested with different actors, but at least it's not a fucking super hero movie or squequel, so …

by terryboo on H.P. Lovecraft Meets Art House Cinema in the Odd, Ominous A Ghost Story (Film Review)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Who said the themes are wrath, cataclysm and redemption? Three Billboards may not be the brilliant film some think, but …

by Scott Mooneyham on The Tonally Incoherent Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Hasn't a Clue How to Manage Its Weighty Themes and Discordant Plot (Film Review)

I'd be more interested with different actors, but at least it's not a fucking super hero movie or squequel, so …

by terryboo on H.P. Lovecraft Meets Art House Cinema in the Odd, Ominous A Ghost Story (Film Review)

Spiderman homecoming is the best spider man movie that I have seen yet https://goo.gl/jhKahk

by Hazel Gomez on Spider-Man: Homecoming Makes a Fifty-Five-Year-Old Hero Feel Like a Kid Again (Film Review)

I was born and raised in Bertie County, and believe me, this was painful and beautiful to watch. I was …

by Tar Heels forever on Know More About Manhattan Than Your Embattled Neighbors in Rural North Carolina? Then See Raising Bertie. (Film Review)

Clint's film is trashy? maybe that's why all of us pigs would like to wallow in it.

by Jovana Dimitrijevic on In Her Remake of Clint Eastwood's Lurid, Trashy The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola Probes Deeper Rhythms (Film Review)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation