The Gambler (2014)

Not only is he the owner...

Not only is he the president…

The Gambler is a movie that had decent potential. It had a slew of positive indicators going for it right out of the gate. I remember being moderately entertained by the original 1974 version with James Caan. Mark Wahlberg has a pretty high historical batting average with me. The movie centers around gambling, which I have seen a great deal of in my lifetime. And, the female lead, Brie Larson – has a nice face to look at. All of that being considered, the movie couldn’t even muster a rough hand job.

The first problem is, unlike the original version, there is absolutely nothing redeemable about any of the characters. Even in the first 15 minutes of the film, we find it impossible to root for our main character, Jim Bennett. Beyond him, everyone else in the movie is basically a piece of shit too. The story itself isn’t a didactic tale of the woes of gambling either. This movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s like if Rupaul and David Bowie had a kid, and that kid was a movie. Wait, that would probably be Xanadu, nevermind.

There are far too many lighthearted moments in the film for the audience to connect to what it might be like to be ensnared in the clutches of a dark, crippling, degenerate gambling addiction. I thought this might be a kind of “Requiem for A Dream” with dice, but alas, not even close.

John Goodman makes for a horrid deodorant

John Goodman makes for a horrid deodorant.

Couple that with Jimbo the protagonist, who is apparently just a spoiled, self-loathing, suicidal waste of space – and we have a perfect formula to produce the emotional equivalent of watching some complete stranger douchebag light $40,000 on fire at a Baccarat table in Vegas. You are mildly saddened by the feat, but so detached from the person, you end up not caring very much.

Jessica Lange is a lone highlight in the film playing Roberta, his mother. She was the most coherent character, and did a great job with the tiny role she had to work with. But enough adulation, let’s get back to the shitshow. The dialogue is bizarre and rambling. Some of the lines are kind of mumbled. Other lines are so disjointed and removed from context, to the point where I had a tough time following what the hell was going on(particularly during  the classroom lecture scenes).

wait, what?

Wait, what?

His love interest(Amy Phillips) is played by Brie Larson, and her character also makes no sense. She watches him punt off $260,000 at a blackjack table for 8 hours while he ignores her, and she responds with a feral assault on his cock as soon as he goes broke and turns his attention back to her. Brie also looks just enough like one of my ex-girlfriends to make the movie all the more awkward to watch.

"You're busto? I need to ring out my panties. "

“You’re busto? I’ll be right back, I need to ring out my panties.”

The other strange thing about the movie was that there was no overall moral lesson. Spoiler alert – He risks the lives of both his mother and his love interest, uses a future pro tennis player to place bets for him in Vegas, bribes a top NBA prospect college basketball player to shave points, borrows money from one vicious loan shark to pay off another, and then bets all of their asses on the spin of a roulette wheel and wins on all counts. Everyone gets out relatively unscathed, and he gets out with only a few scratches and harsh words. So, I guess the moral is : if you just double down and Martingale that shit up enough times, everything will work out. Vegas should pay to get this movie in front of every 21 year-old kid they can find!  My takeaway is – if you lie, cheat, and steal as a 40-something year-old broke male, life rewards you with a hot, young, genius piece of college ass. Hmmmm, “Marker Please!”

Overall Rating :  4.6/10

– JA


Hi. I’m worth a full two points to any given film I’m in.