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


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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.