Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Based on the 1974 film The Gambler written by James Toback
Screenplay by William Monahan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Lange, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Michael Kenneth Williams
Jim Bennett (Wahlberg) is a college professor and a compulsive gambler. As his debts increase, so do the consequences of borrowing from men who won’t be put off. Now Jim is looking for a way out that might protect him and those he cares for.
This is a remake of a 1974 film written by James Toback (Bugsy). Much of the film was based on the experiences Toback had as a gambling addict and a college professor. This version of the story was written by William Monahan (The Departed), and directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). The film features Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor), Jessica Lange (Tootsie), and John Goodman (Argo). Brie Larson (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave) round out the cast.
This movie is written with a sense of grit and set in the underbelly of society. The setup for the story is nicely done, with a series of unique scenes. The characters are put into context quickly, thanks to nice introduction scenes. The dialogue can be a bit overlong at times, but does a good job setting the tone. The story is interesting but also flawed in a number of ways. While the writing seems to find interesting moments throughout the film, the overall arc seems lost at times. There are moments in the film that feel forced and sometimes just out of place. The end result is a movie with a number of great scenes that lacks a cohesive story.
The cast makes the most of this story with a number of great performances. Mark Wahlberg seems to be working with a role that was built specifically for him. He does a great job transitioning through a range of emotions that his character is faced with. Jessica Lange is also good in this one. Her role seems to embody the other side of the coin. She puts together a performance that is filled with anger, sadness, and frustration. Goodman, Williams, and Larson also do nice work with their roles in this one. While the story didn’t provide a perfect canvas for the actors, they still did good work with it.
Visually, this film is pretty great. The cinematography by Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty) is wonderful. In addition to the camera work, the lighting and other visual aspects come together nicely. The result is a movie that has a unique visual styling to go along with some unique story ideas. The movie also has a good score to go along with the visuals. Overall, this one looks pretty good.
This is a movie that could’ve been so much more. Despite some strong performances, the story just doesn’t deliver as much as I hoped it would. The result is a good film that wants to be a great one. If you’re a fan of drama, this is one for you. I would also suggest this one to fans of the stars. Despite the issues with the story, the acting is worth checking out. I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.