Entertainment » Movies

The Gambler

by Frank J. Avella
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Apr 28, 2015
The Gambler

Rupert Wyatt's "The Gambler," written by Oscar winner William Monahan ("The Departed") and starring Mark Wahlberg, isn't so much a remake of the fearlessly stark 1974 Karel Reisz version, written by James Toback ("Bugsy") and starring James Caan, as a modernized alternate version.

Wahlberg, who excels at introspection and demon confrontation, plays the nihilistic titular character who seems bent on self-destruction. He's a disillusioned college professor who teaches Shakespeare and practically bullies his students, by day and a compulsive gambler bent on pushing the limits, by night--a warped, casino version of "Looking for Mr. Goodbar."

Our anti-hero comes from wealth and continuously borrows from his mother (a brilliant, underused Jessica Lange) to feed his habit. "I'm not actually a gambler," he insists. And is he really a gambler or just so alienated he needs to take lunatic risks to survive? To think that the film is just about someone with an addiction is missing the point and missing the deliciously dark and nasty social satire at play.

Here is someone who had everything and is so damaged he chooses to lose it all.

Wyatt and Monahan do their best to keep things bleak until the unnecessary sorta-hopeful ending.

The pic is a grand showcase for the underrated and mesmerizing Mark Wahlberg and should have been more appreciated when it opened last December.

The pic is a grand showcase for the underrated and mesmerizing Wahlberg and should have been more appreciated when it opened last December.

The gorgeously gritty cinematography (by Greig Fraser) has been perfectly preserved on Blu-ray and the audio quality rocks as well.

Special Features include a bounty of featurettes, totaling close to an hour in length, as well as 23 minutes of Deleted/Extended Scenes. Interviews with the filmmakers and star are plentiful, but there is little Lange love and that's always disappointing, since she steals all her too-few scenes.

There is no bonus material on the DVD.

"The Gambler" is high stakes cynical cinema. Those who can handle it will get a tremendous rush. Those who cannot should just pop "Frozen" in for 100th time and leave the serious films for the grown ups.

Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep. Frank is a recipient of a 2019 International Writers Retreat Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a 2015 NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. He is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW, FIG JAM, VATICAN FALLS) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute

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