Movie Review: ‘The Gambler’ Goes All In, But A Few People Walked Out

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Cole Clay // Film Critic

THE GAMBLER | 111 min. | Rated R | Director: Rupert Wyatt | Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Lange, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson and Michael Kenneth Williams

The common perception of living life to the fullest means going “all-in,” leaving nothing out there— mentally, emotionally, and in the case of THE GAMBLER, monetarily. This is the focus of director Rupert Wyatt’s (THE RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) collaboration with Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg and screenwriter William Monahan (THE DEPARTED).

The 1974 film of the same name gets a remake, but lacks grittiness despite Wahlberg’s effort to portray John Bennet as a serial narcissist with the constant desire to play Russian Roulette with his life. Bennet is a silver-spooned novelist who’s prolific in his words, whether it be the job he holds in contempt (an Associate Professor of English at a prestigious university), or just a tangent he goes on to talk himself out of with a disgruntled bookie. These character aspects only serve self-indulgence to Monahan’s dialogue, throwing anything could have been quality by the wayside.

Even through the immense faults, THE GAMBLER is a profoundly confident film with Wyatt’s ability to frame a scene and Walhberg being all cool. There are too many digressions formed that will ensure the you never become fully invested. The relationship that’s forged between Wahlberg and Brie “watch me in SHORT TERM 12 instead” Larson that doesn’t fit into the narrative structure, which is yet another digression against the supposed story of self-deprecation. By not judging the protagonist, the entire character arc falls apart, but characters much like Bennett have worked by using a hint of satire, or fully committing to the debauchery (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET).

THE GAMBLER doesn’t amount too much, except a story of a walking existential crisis looking for his pacifier, which is conveniently located at a blackjack table.

P.S. Mark, I hope we can still be friends.

THE GAMBLER opens tonight at 7 p.m.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.