Sunday, January 25, 2015


In THE GAMBLER director Rupert Wyatt (RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) and screenwriter William Monahan (THE DEPARTED) have updated Karel Reisz' bleak 1974 thriller based on a James Toback script and originally inspired by a Dostoyevsky novel. The basic premise is that the protagonist is a University lecturer with a gambling addiction combined with a self-destructive streak of nihilism.  He feels that if he can't be a genius and a winner he should be nothing - it's not even worth trying or being consigned to being mediocre.  The self-conscious self-willed harmful behaviour is compelling to watch.   The way in which the film works is that every now and then it hands the gambler a lifeline - more money from a loan shark or a family member - and then he blows that too.  Finally,  he ends up manipulating one of his students, corrupting them too.  The tension and the thrills come from the writers making us like the character, dangling that lifelines, and watching him climbing up the rope only to fall again. Does the protagonist even want to pay his creditors? Is he an addict or an existential suicide in the manner of  Camus' The Stranger? The resulting film is compelling, sleek, well-acted although ultimately less relentlessly and purely existential as the original.  I think this is a dreadful shame - and undercuts the philosophical stylings the movie aspires to and which Mark Wahlberg would've been capable of delivering on screen. To cast such a man, even in heavily reduced form, and then not use that balance of vulnerability and violence, is a crime. 

THE GAMBLER has a running time of 111 minutes and is rated R.  THE GAMBLER was released last year in the USA and Canada and was released earlier this year in Denmark, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Cambodia, Mexico, Pakistan, Belgium and Germany. It is currently on release in Azerbaijan, Russia, the UK and Ireland.  It opens on February 5th in Kuwait, on March 19th in New Zealand, on April 9th in Ukraine, and on April 24th in Latvia and Japan.

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