The Gambler - 4.5 Stars
This superb film has an astonishing script, an amazing cast, but will be overlooked by most.
Jim Bennett is a risk taker. Both an English professor and a high-stakes gambler, Bennett bets it all when he borrows from a gangster and offers his own life as collateral. Always one step ahead, Bennett pits his creditor against the operator of a gambling ring and leaves his dysfunctional relationship with his wealthy mother in his wake. He plays both sides, immersing himself in an illicit, underground world while garnering the attention of Frank, a loan shark with a paternal interest in Bennett’s future. As his relationship with a student deepens, Bennett must take the ultimate risk for a second chance…
I have to admit I wasn't quite sure how this movie was going to compare to its original (also titled the Gambler) from 1974, but for me it is far superior. Mark Wahlberg’s performance was outstanding. He was able to successfully capture the arrogance and confidence of the character, while also being able to convey the character’s weakness, insecurity, and at times fear. John Goodman played one of the many people Bennett borrows from and while he did suit the role, he still doesn’t have the same level of talent as some of the other actors in the cast. Brie Larson played Amy Phillips and while she didn’t have much dialogue or material to work with she still played the role superbly. The only other performance in this film that deserves a mention is Jessica Lange, who played Bennett’s mother. Her performance was utterly riveting and she conveyed both worry and hatred towards her son in their scenes together.
Director Rupert Wyatt has effectively used light and shade to convey the mental place of the character. Cleverly at the end of the film Bennett removes his black jacket revealing a white shirt, for many this symbolises redemption or a fresh start and Wyatt has cleverly incorporated that into the story.
Greig Fraser’s cinematography was superb, the use of oddly framed shots and camera movements help convey the mood of the piece, as well as show how clever and “artsy” this film actually is. The film’s soundtrack is the final thing I want to comment on, its use of various classic songs is outstanding and it's a soundtrack I’d certainly want to buy!
Overall this film has a solid cast, great direction, cinematography and music. It is a somewhat artsy film and I think sadly general audiences will either overlook it or not appreciate its brilliance.
Review by Benjamin Maio Mackay
Screening courtesy of Paramount Pictures