The Gambler

Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson and John Goodman
In US Cinemas December 19th, 2014
In UK Cinemas January 23rd, 2015

by Joanna Orland

Style, substance, drama, comedy and the best soundtrack of the year are merely a sliver of what makes The Gambler a fantastic film.  Based on the 1974 film of the same name, The Gambler sees Mark Wahlberg as English literature professor / high stakes gambler Jim Bennett who has much debt owed to some rather menacing loan sharks.  Devastated by the death of his grandfather and his own inferiority complex in the world of literature, Jim gambles away his fortune and his life with complete disregard.  He is depressed, potentially suicidal, and puts himself into a dangerous situation which may result in someone doing the hard work of taking his life for him.

Mark Wahlberg is great in this film and looks nearly exactly as he did in Boogie Nights.  There must be an aged picture of him hanging in an attic somewhere.  He’s got the charisma, charm, energy and likability to carry this film which is oozing in style both visually and musically.  Director Wyatt is stylistically miles away from his last film Rise of the Planet of the Apes and lends a unique voice to a story that may not fare as well in different hands.  The balance between the drama and comedy is perfection and the story is never outshone by its slick style and fantastic soundtrack.  It is masterful for what is a director’s third film, only his  second big budget one.

The supporting cast is strong with staples like Jessica Lange, and John Goodman who has all of the best lines and funniest scenes.  Brie Larson is always a great addition to any cast, and Michael Kenneth Williams is brilliant in his villainous role.  Even while Wyatt and Wahlberg do a very reliable job of holding this film together, the support cast is the very sweet and delicious icing on the cake.

In a film market saturated with cynicism (Nightcrawler), science (The Imitation game, The Theory of Everything) and war dramas (Fury, Unbroken, Testament of Youth, etc.) it’s refreshing to see a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is as much fun for the audience to watch as it clearly was for the director to make.  Odds are certainly in favour of The Gambler being a hit.  I’m all in.

(Now, where can I purchase the soundtrack?)


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