The Gambler


Rupert Wyatt’s remake of Karel Reisz’s 1974 film The Gambler is a pendulous story that swings between gangsters and Gurdjieff, that is, between the material and the immaterial. Mark Wahlberg stars as a casino-addicted, possibly suicidal professor of literature, Jim Bennett, who values little — neither money nor status nor affection nor even his own life. His inability to win and walk away has indebted him to ruthless bookies (Michael Kenneth Williams) and gambling den lords (Alvin Ing) — and they want to get paid. Bennett seems incapable of making sound decisions; he bullies his students, and treats his wealthy but weirdly contemptible mother (Jessica Lange) with, well, contempt. Much of this movie feels flighty and random, but Bennett’s conversations about life’s meaning and actualization with an eager young coed who moonlights as a casino waitress (Brie Larson), a conflicted basketball player who wants to quit school (Anthony Kelley) and a doughy but deadly loan shark who seems to want to save Bennett from himself (John Goodman) are actually well-written and insightful. 

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