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Movie Review

The Gambler

MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, and for some sexuality/nudity.

Reviewed by: David Simpson
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Crime Thriller Drama Remake
Length:
1 hr. 51 min.
Year of Release:
2014
USA Release:
December 19, 2014 (limited)
December 25, 2014 (wide—2,478 theaters)
DVD: April 28, 2015
Copyright, Paramount Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Paramount Pictures

professor having an affair with his student

gambling in the Bible

Should Christians be involved with lotteries or other forms of gambling? Answer

gambling debts

gambling addictions

gangsters

extorting money from your own mother

convincing others to sin for your benefit

sin and the fall of man

goodness and righteousness

Do Not Enter

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Featuring: Jessica LangeRoberta
Mark WahlbergJim Bennett
Brie Larson … Amy Phillips
Sonya Walger … Angelina
John GoodmanFrank
Michael Kenneth Williams … Neville (as Michael K. Williams)
Caitlin O'Connor … Poker Masseuse
Leland Orser … Larry Jones
Cassandra Starr … Bridgette
George Kennedy … Ed
more »
Director: Rupert Wyatt—“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), “The Escapist” (2008)
Producer: Paramount Pictures
Winkler Films
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a compulsive gambler. Despite a good job as a university English literature professor and a rich, widowed mother who makes sure he wants for nothing, Bennett continues to get himself further and further into gambling hell. After he manages to blow $80,000 on one bet, he borrows $50,000 from a loan shark to try win back what he lost. He fails, and now owes a Korean gambling boss and the loan shark huge sums of money.

Bennett just doesn’t know when to stop, and he continues to go way over his head in trying to recoup money to pay off his debts. When his mother (Jessica Lange) bails him out, by giving him $240,000, he takes it to the gambling hall and loses it all in a single night out with one of his students. With his life, and the lives of those he knows, being threatened, he must take one huge final gamble to pay off all he owes.

First off, the language is strong. Expect over 100 f-words, although it seems more throughout the two hours. Despite this, John Goodman’s “f**k you money” monologue was one of the best I’ve ever heard. The violence is quite tame. Bennett gets beaten up a couple of times, and there are some strong threats directed towards him and his family/friends. Sex/nudity is at a minimum. One scene takes place in a strip club where brief female topless nudity is seen, and there is a further scene where sex is implied.

This a film that packs many punches about gambling and the affect it has. It’s not glamorized in any way, and the pain it causes to the people in Bennett’s life is evident. The gambling alienates him from them, and even from himself, as it infiltrates every facet of his being. He simply doesn’t care about life anymore.

Wahlberg plays a macabre “devil-may-care” loser quite well, but you must be warned that his lethargy and his lack of care is a very strong character trait. He’s given up, and just feeds his addiction. This is evident when you see him teach. “You see me pretending to teach, I see you pretending to learn,” he tells one class very directly. This lack of passion for life is the complete opposite of what God desires for us. He gave us life, and life in abundance, so that we can live freely, exploring our passions and creativity. Jim Bennett has lost that, and perhaps, never had it in the first place.

What is key to recognize here, though, is that unlike many Hollywood flicks that focus on the addictions and personal hell of characters, this movie does end on a positive note. I can’t give any more details away, but it surprised me. There is freedom found in the end. That filled me with more joy than at any other point in the film—except for perhaps when John Goodman was on screen.

As far as movie quality goes, the director did a decent job. This movie was plain and straightforward. There were no roving cameras, no lens flares, and no insane lighting. This was simple story-telling, but, honestly, far too simple. What was frustrating about the film is that the story could have been written on a single page of A4. There’s very little to it. If I tell you to write me a gambling-based story, this is what you would have written nine times out of ten. So how does it last for two whole hours?? I’m not sure, but it does. There’s a lot of dialog to wade through, that tells you what you already know, and there’s even more dialog about existentialism, the future, and English literature that really just fills time aimlessly. There’s nothing that ultimately ties it into the story beyond the fact that you learn Bennett hates his job. So is there a point to it all? No. How disappointing.

Wahlberg gave 100% to this role. He lost 61 pounds to play Jim Bennett. He studied college professors to play a convincing teacher. However, he’s not an Oscar winner, and probably never will be. I’d like to believe one day I’ll be able to eat my words, but I doubt it. There’s just always something missing. If you’re a fan of Wahlberg, “Shooter” and “Four Brothers” are you go-tos. This, sadly, is not. Definitely not one to rush out and see.

Violence: Moderate to heavy / Profanity: Extreme—“Jesus Christ” (1), “Jesus” (1), “G**-damn” (2), “hell” (2), 110 f-words, various vulgar terms for anatomy, s-words (20+), a** (8), SOB (1) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate to heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—When we watch Hollywood movies, let us consider that movies like this will have foul words. Lots of “F” words, which is “very” Mark Wahlberg. The movie was rendered so simple, just like an indie film, but nevertheless, the story and the flow of the scenes were smooth—no back-memory-reminiscing-lost-in-transition scenes.

Gambling is not acceptable in the Bible. That is probably why I rated this movie “good” because it clearly showed the addiction it brings. Once you are in it, gambling eats you alive. However, just like any “hero” movie, there will be transformation. The part I truly like. When he made a choice, he was convicted to push and walk his talk. When he started running in the end, that means he made a CHOICE. That choice led him to run and run and experience release and freedom.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Chiechai, age 52 (Philippines)
Neutral
Neutral—“The Gambler” is a slow churning film that shows the struggle of someone who sees the world in black or white, all or nothing terms. •Lot’s of f-words •One brief scene of partial nudity
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Luke, age 24 (USA)
Negative
Negative—We went to see “The Gambler” only because “Unbroken” was sold out! After seeing the movie, I think it should have been called “Broken and Broke!” I love Mark Walhberg as an Actor and an American Patriot, but I don’t think he was right for the part. After seeing him in so many roles and in real life as a tough, no nonsense, take no cr@! from nobody, successful kind of guy, seeing him as as self loathing, broke, in debt, angry, gambling addict who gets his behind kicked, just wasn’t believable.

The movie is also slow and, in the end, pointless! Bottom line, “The Gambler” misses the “Marky Mark!”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—RD, age 45 (USA)
Negative—The main character is not only a gambler—but a bad gambler at that (come to think of it, are there any “good” gamblers out there?). The twist is that he is also a college professor. And the twist on that is he pontificates meaningless dribble to his students that is supposed to be brilliant social commentary—but in essence is psycho babble nonsense. The offense for me is his arrogance, and this completely removed any hint of sympathy for him.

Further, he is insanely irresponsible in his gambling. Several times he borrows money to pay off his debts, but gambles it all away instead. He punishes his mother with emotional extortion for $560,000 and gambles that away too—all while bringing his mother to tears. His parting comment about her was that by her stating there would be no more bail outs, that last loan “got rid of her.” What a piece of work this guy is. What a senseless, emotionless, foolish person. What a senseless, emotionless movie. Save your money!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Leonardo, age 72 (USA)
Movie Critics

…Low on action and tension, long on grand speeches. Wahlberg gets an “A” for effort… [2/4]
—Rafer Guzmán, Long Island Newsday

…An unnecessary remake… Slick but slight… [2/4]
—Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail

…Mark Wahlberg gives a dynamite display of self-hatred… isn’t a typical thriller but offers surefire cinematic—if not moral—virtue…
—Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian

…moderately entertaining but frankly unnecessary remake…
—Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

…Wahlberg brings an intense, often internalized performance to a wickedly written role, and while he’s no James Caan, he’s certainly able to infuse this mesmerizing character study with enough rancid brio to make this self-flagellating hustler believably doomstruck. To Bennett, life itself is a losing proposition. [3/5]
—Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle

…redefines the phrase “spectacular miscasting,” but this remake of the 1974 James Caan film written by James Toback still crackles with mordant cynicism. …
—Kyle Smith, New York Post

…ultimately the film brings to mind Camus/Mersault’s famous observation about the “benign indifference of the universe.” [2½/4]
—Peter Howell, Toronto Star Newspapers

“Gambler” fails to get the blood rushing… the thrill is replaced by dread… [2½/4]
—Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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