The Gambler is a movie that promises another journey into the sullen underbelly of the gambling world. Often the hero, or mores o the zero, finds himself invincible on a lucky streak only to fall into a spiraling world of debt as his luck runs out. The outcome of the movie as we know often depends on the type of protagonist we get, and also if the tale is based on a “true story”. So when I saw Mark Wahlberg taking the lead on this project, I decided to take another trip down gambler’s lane in hopes of getting something fresh.
Unfortunately the verdict is the Gambler follows the same formula, focusing this time on a pessimistic bum as our supposed hero of the times. What is unique though is the approach this character takes to gambling. Wahlberg’s character Jim Bennett is one many will love to hate, as his rude, bleak mannerisms reflect his don’t give a crap attitude. Bennett pushes his luck, constantly playing the tables and irrationally gambling everything he has to prove some point. When he loses, he shows no remorse, almost as if he is planning on losing in order to bury himself further into trouble. At first it kind of set the scene, but the pompous attitude got old about halfway through. Now if there was a good explanation for his actions, perhaps I could have stayed on board and respected the man. This movie though has surprisingly shallow character development, especially when it comes to the Bennett’s background. Was it really the opening scene that started this fire? If so, there should have been a revelation as to why, but if not then I guess it was a symbolic character of how rotten the world’s morals are. Whatever the explanation, the character is overly morose and not one I actually was rooting for in this movie.
Speaking of morose, this film has very little optimism to it. The famous quote in the movie is if you don’t got the magic then you’ll never make it, and that attitude is embedded in just about everything Bennett teaches. What a horrible lesson to embed in a movie, practically saying if you aren’t the best you suck at life. The fact that we constantly get beat over the head with this dark aspect of life you can pretty much bet you’ll feel like a million bucks at the end of the movie. As if that wasn’t enough to bring you down, the focus of this essentially suicidal man sucks the energy out of the movie, only relieved temporarily with a few witty remarks and a few shots of actual sunlight. Combining all these factors makes for good dramatic tone, but also for a film that drags on with what appears to be no end in sight, especially with how far this man goes. Despite dragging it out though, there really is no suspense, all of the supposed bookies giving him a thousand chances to essentially crap on their respect, and have no consequences whatsoever. Why this was the case? I guess they were that desperate for the money, but the movie lacked any real suspense for me, with the exception of the last twenty minutes where things, kind of wrap up.
So what is good about this movie then? I agree with my fellow reviewers that the film is shot beautifully, the crew using ashy filters and lighting to capture that oh so sweet depression mood. Emotions come out in full force, and the bleak despair of a man who lost the light of the world is well captured in the camerawork. Most of you probably don’t give a crap about that though, so what else is there. Acting wise Wahlberg does a great job playing the sullen role, foregoing his usual street punk, ridiculous comedy stunts, for a more serious role, though he still has a few quips that had me chuckling. In both looks and delivery the man wins my approval, as he makes an endgame attempt at the Oscar award for best actor. Goodman as well does a great job in his role, the man doing so much for such a limited role, and his character is integrated well with the other loan sharks that swim in the city. Characters aside, the setting will give you that feel of being in the underbelly, Bennett’s journey taking you to just about every dive you could think of as a casino. Aside from that, the rest of the cast does a fine job acting, often providing some openings for a few good zings, occasionally spouting something out that’s funny.
Overall the Gambler is an okay film, but nothing I can really brag about. Yes the acting, filming, and setting are good, but it lacks a lot of key elements that I feel were needed to support such a bleak character. Fans of rogue, devil may care attitudes, or those in love Mark Wahlberg, might enjoy this tale, but for the rest of the public, avoid it and wait for Redbox. One word of advice if you do choose to see it, DON’T TAKE TODDLERS, OR IMPRESSIONABLE CHILDREN TO THIS MOVIE. If the F bomb doesn’t blow them away, I’m sure some other things will.
Movie Overall: 5.0