Studio: Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by: Ed Coke
A wise person once said that a fulfilled existence isn’t met through accumulating vast sums of wealth and power, but from enjoying the path life takes and putting less importance on our final destination. While this philosophy is legit and understandable for the most part, the trail which some poor souls must traverse is often so unpleasant that the end of the trip is surely where the only satisfaction can be found.
In The Gambler, a remake of the 1974 classic of the same title, Mark Wahlberg plays the lead role of a gambling addict and university professor who battles both personal and real-life demons along his way to salvation. Directed by the relatively unknown Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), the movie is backed by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, the same heavy-hitter producers who brought the original James Caan-led film to the big screen. With great cinematic efforts like the Rocky franchise, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and The Wolf of Wall Street on their resumes, perhaps I expected too much from The Gambler 2.0. However, I did leave the theatre wanting more. The acting and tone of the movie were on point; salient sombreness and brooding desperation, with an especially masterful performance by Jessica Lange as the wealthy and fed-up mother. John Goodman doesn’t disappoint and neither does Michael K. Williams, both taking on roles of loan sharks who help Walhberg’s character but prove they should not be crossed. Brie Larson is well cast as the sexy and shy writing prodigy who witnesses her teacher’s other life as a degenerate gambler and is drawn into the mix.
While the plot basically follows the same path as the original, this new rendition of The Gambler provides a modern take on an age old story. Certainly not glamorizing the struggles of gambling addiction, yet allowing a glimpse into the adrenaline rush it so often provides, this picture serves as a stark reminder of the risks involved when high stakes are on the line and strategy is nowhere to be found. This is a visually entrancing and slyly entertaining movie… and with a message no less.