The Gambler isn’t the worst film around but it’s uninspiring and lacks energy which is a shame considering the cast assembled, and that does include Mark Wahlberg, but otherwise the writing is subpar and the plot itself is just all around dull. For his part, John Goodman was a lot of fun to watch it’s just unfortunate it was more or less a cameo appearance.
Genre(s): Drama, Crime
Paramount | R – 110 min. – $39.99 | April 28, 2015
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
I cannot figure Mark Wahlberg out. On the one hand, the dude is charming, often funny (see Ted) and can isn’t a half bad actor, yet every so often he gives such bizarre/bad performances (The Happening and Transformers: Age of Extinction come to mind) that you can only shake your head. Although his role in The Gambler — remake of a 1974 film of the same name starring James Caan — might not technically be terrible, the screenplay by William Monahan has some of the worst dialogue and the film itself drags on in spite of a reasonable 1:50 running time.
The story centers on Jim Bennett (MARK WAHLBERG) who, by days, teaches literature at a college while at night spends every nickel he has at an underground/illegal gambling establishments. He’s not a very good gambler but might be an even worse professor where his lectures are dourer though I suppose he’s supposed to be challenging toward his students, including bright young writer, Amy Phillips (BRIE LARSON), a star tennis player (EMORY COHEN) and a talented basketball player (ANTHONY KELLEY).
He spends so much that he gets in deep with several unsavory individuals from the owner of the casino (ALVIN ING) to a bookie named Neville Baraka (MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS) to what I can only assume is a crime boss simply named Frank (JOHN GOODMAN). He’s in deep with all three, to the tune of $250k+, and even gets money from his rich mother (JESSICA LANGE) to pay it back but instead loses it all at the table.
The problem I had with The Gambler isn’t so much with Mark Wahlberg nor is it because his Jim Bennett is a jackass du jour; there have been plenty of movies where the main character is a dislikable tool. However, when you have an unlikeable character, at least have him/her an interesting unlikeable character with attributes, or lack thereof, that you can be entertained by. Instead, Bennett is so forgettable that I couldn’t care less what happened to the guy and for his part, the only thing more laughable than Wahlberg playing a lit professor is him playing a genius inventor…
The supporting cast are probably the highlight for the film but sadly they are vastly underutilized. Brie Larson makes for a serviceable love interest (quasi anyway) but it feels awfully forced and for somebody who could be on the rise, her character isn’t used very well; Michael Kenneth Williams playing Neville Baraka has a couple solid scenes; Jessica Lange isn’t too bad as Jim’s coddling mother. But John Goodman is easily the highlight and unfortunately is only in a couple of scenes; I really wish this movie would’ve been about his character, which would’ve made for a hella fun and entertaining flick.
The Gambler was helmed by Rupert Wyatt while William Monahan (won Best Adapted Screenplay for The Departed) adapted from the 1974 original and although it is a slick looking film, nothing else about it really stands out. The writing is a bit weak and all in all, the film is unremarkable. It’s not terrible but it’s not very good either. This is the type of film that will be forgotten within a week after seeing it only to be reminded once it hits the sales rack at Best Buy or Wal-Mart.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy slip cover. Inside are a DVD Copy and a download code for the Digital Copy (both UV and iTunes).
Mr. Self Destruct: Inside The Gambler (14:12; HD) – This simple featurette provides some on-location interviews with the cast and crew as they discuss the plot, characters and updating from the original set against scenes from both the original and remake.
Dark Before Dawn: The Descent of The Gambler (16:26; HD) specifically looks at the color palette, costumes and set designs for the different characters from Jim Bennett to the villains.
Changing the Game: Adaptation (9:02; HD) – This featurette is about the screenplay adapted by William Monahan and shows some of the comparisons between the two versions.
In the City: Locations (9:27; HD) looks at the various filming locales to give the film a unique flavor.
Dressing the Players: Costume Design (7:49; HD) is another basic featurette covering the wardrobe of the different characters.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (23:31; HD) – There are six scenes either trimmed or removed including Leland Orser whose role as Larry Jones was cut yet still featured in the trailers.
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Paramount releases The Gambler onto Blu-ray presented in its original 2.35 aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer (AVC codec). The picture itself is alright but hardly amazing. Detail levels are half-decent and the darker shots show no obvious signs of artifacts or aliasing while colors are pretty good though the film itself is darker in tone. That said, it also doesn’t quite have the pop to it compared with other new releases.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
The movie comes with a satisfactory but standard DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The bulk of the film is dialogue-driven anyway so the bulk of the sounds comes through the center channel while the front and rear speakers are seemingly relegated for ambient noises as well as the score/soundtrack. Although a fine track, the issue at hand it doesn’t offer much depth and is hardly dynamic and instead is a so-so lossless track on the whole.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, The Gambler isn’t the worst film around but it’s uninspiring and lacks energy which is a shame considering the cast assembled, and that does include Mark Wahlberg, but otherwise the writing is subpar and the plot itself is just all around dull. For his part, John Goodman was a lot of fun to watch it’s just unfortunate it was more or less a cameo appearance. The Blu-ray released by Paramount is pretty basic with good video/audio transfers and a few basic featurettes and deleted scenes.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.