Gambling is one of the oldest forms of recreation. Taking chances on a flip of a card, the gambler hopes to win big. Money’s allure can become a dangerous addiction with the thirst for gaining dollars all consuming.
The Gambler looks at how a man’s quest for cash becomes his undoing. Exploring a dangerously dark world, it offers lessons in endlessly satisfying one’s cravings.
English professor Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) loves to gamble. Desperate to satisfy his desire for the luck of the dice, he goes to any length to fulfil needs. Borrowing money from various gangsters including Frank (John Goodman), he is quickly out of his depth. Desperate to find a way out, Bennett hatches an audacious plan to escape the clutches of those trading in filthy lucre.
Like the spin of a roulette wheel, The Gambler comes with mixed odds. Neither fish nor fowl, it stumbles due to a muddled screenplay. You are never sure of the reason for Jim’s behaviour and his tendency for self-destruction is unexplained. Scenes with his mother Roberta, played by the always wonderful Jessica Lange, only provide vague clues. As Jim has little redeeming features, The Gambler is somewhat of a chore to watch.
In spite of these drawbacks and fine performances, Rupert Wyatt’s direction conjures some interest. How various gangs use Jim as a bargaining tool in turf wars is fascinating with the tension of Jim’s situation keenly felt. Unfortunately, The Gambler spends too much time on irrelevant character moments, making for an unfocussed narrative. The themes pushed by The Gambler become frustratingly smothered.
The Gambler is still worth watching even if it isn’t as good as it should have been. The gambling world isn’t made to look any better either with The Gambler deftly providing a warning to not over-indulge in taking lucky chances.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 6