Leon van Nierop
2 minute read
16 Mar 2015
8:00 am

The Gambler movie review

Leon van Nierop

Many of you might have seen Carl Reitz's film from the seventies about the same subject starring James Caan.

SERIOUS BUSINESS. Mark Wahlberg as Jim Bennett and Jessica Lange as Roberta in a scene from the motion picture The Gambler. Pictures: Paramount Pictures.

Mark Wahlberg is a more realistic, darker soul who is utterly addicted to gambling. He is as self-destructive as the Jake Gyllenhaal character in Nightcrawler, but on a different level. Where that journalist pulls several people with him into the abyss, Wahlberg is bent on destroying only his own life – and that of a student he falls in love with.

One watches in horror as one man, filled with self-loathing, gambles away his entire life, but is so enslaved by the adrenaline of losing everything he has, it actually becomes intriguing.

The film is depressing and as dark as they come. It functions as a lesson in self-loathing, but also in getting enough courage to finally give yourself a second chance. The problem is whether the loan sharks will see it in the same way and allow him to walk scot free until his next gambling spree.

Mark Wahlberg has really proved himself to be a versatile actor with a commanding screen presence. That dark, furrowed brow behind which he watches his life disappearing down the drain, hides a human being so filled with doubt and hatred even his own mother – an excellent Jessica Lange – loses faith in him.

This film may not appear on any top 10 lists this year, neither will Wahlberg walk off with any prizes. It is a firm, competent and often disturbing look at an addiction in which the person involved has no fear of death or any punishment, which may include disfigurement. His only fear is where his next gambling fix will come from and how he will escape the criminals he owes money to.

It might be interesting to find the original film and compare the two. Not the kind of film I would necessarily leave my house for.