The Gambler for me, is a role that will define and change perceptions of Mark Wahlberg.
Word of warning, this is not your stereotypical Wahlberg shoot em up thriller, so try not to approach it in such a manner, but it is however none the less a thrilling film.
It is also a very clever film, that does not wait for the audience to keep up, I say that in a good sense though. At no point is the script dumbed down to detract from the sizzling dialogue and tense atmosphere of the scenes.
The film follows Jim Bennett, a long suffering self loathing English Professor with quite possibly the worst gambling addiction ever depicted in film.
It is difficult to get on side with Jim, simply because he isn’t on his own side.
Suicide is a subject lightly touched upon in the film, especially during one of Jim’s lectures (which for me are among the stand out scenes of the film) where he discusses the protagonist of the novel the class are studying, keeping back the sixth bullet in his revolver pistol for himself, an idea only Jim is open to.
The film is so wonderfully acted, especially Wahlberg, who in my opinion is unlucky to not have had more recognition at the Academy Awards gone by for this performance which is a stand out in a stellar career.
Jessica Lange also portrays Jim’s mother with great feeling. She is the daughter in law of an extremely wealthy businessman and she plays the role of brooding old rich lady particularly brilliant.
She is also the character you feel the most empathy for, because really she has done nothing to deserve the suffering she goes through watching her son destroy himself.
Rising star Brie Larson makes a relatively small but none the less memorable appearance, playing Jim’s love interest and in the end salvation. She is a little bit clichéd in the role she play as “man goes straight for the girl” her being the girl, but the journey to that point is so enjoyable it does not detract from the impact of the film.
But the real man to steal every scene he pops up in is John Goodman. He plays powerful loan shark Frank. A hulk of a man.
His dialogue is among the sharpest in the film and he also offers the best definition of “f*ck you” I think I have ever heard. I will not ruin it for you, but it really is something that stuck with me well after I had left the cinema.
Fans of roulette and blackjack will be on tenter hooks when watching this. Jim’s skill and apparent lack of self worth lead to him going in deep and over his head at the gambling tables until money (which isn’t his but some rather unsavoury gangsters) is all gone and he is left crawling back to the very same gangsters for another stake.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a film that advocates gambling though, for in fact, it does the complete opposite.
The ending drops a very clear message, life and happiness is not found in money and wealth, but in people.
Overall The Gambler is not a thriller, that will keep you thrilled from start to finish. And remember, “desiring a thing does not make you have it!”
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