Updated: May 25, 2022
“The Gambler” is a 2014 crime drama directed by Rupert Wyatt, based on a classic 70’s eponymous movie written by James Toback. The film is starring Mark Wahlberg as a literature professor who is a compulsive gambler in an illegal casino by night. In his attempt to make some serious bank by playing cards, his condition goes from bad to worse to even more broke than he was before taking up gambling.
The plot of “The Gambler”
Despite having potential, the movie is quite bad. The director didn’t manage to correctly emulate the casino vibe he was looking for. Even if the film is called “The Gambler,” the creators failed to focus on the gambling aspect, but rather on the stupid choices that the main character makes because of his destructive behavior.
The movie is carried by the extraordinary cast surrounding the main character, like Jessica Lange or Brie Larson. We think that Mark Wahlberg was a terrible choice of main actor. He fails to enter the character and isn’t able to explain to the audience why he’s making the gambling decision.
While the whole idea is that Mark Wahlberg’s character is an addict, he actually shows a different side of the casino world – compulsively gambling all of his balance until he eventually loses it all. The two choices that Jim Bennet, the main character, has are essentially gambling it away or setting it on fire, which does not precisely represent the mindset of a real addict.
Critics Opinion About the Movie
Even though “The Gambler is labeled as a drama, the tension is missing entirely. The only common ground between Wahlberg’s character and a compulsive gambler is the self-destructive nature. Jim Bennet owed $80.000 to the mob, won $90.000, but instead of paying off his debt, he keeps betting until he loses everything.
This movie is full of unnecessary speeches, and the final one lets us think that maybe he never was a gambler. Still, it isn't evident for the audience. According to Matt Atchity, chief editor at Rotten Tomatoes, the representation of compulsive gambling behavior in “The Gambler” is dull. The character experiments with destroying his life by betting entirely at random.
Jim Bennet lacks the skills of a real gambler that knows what to expect, like the characters in “Rounders” that realize they can’t beat the game, but they are still addicted to the thrill of winning big. Critics argue that the original movie is way better executed. The main character is trying to double up his money until he can pay up the debt, instead of just gambling recklessly until he eventually loses, risking to get murdered Wahlberg character does in the 2014 movie.
Another weird aspect of this movie is that the third act's atmosphere turns into sort of a heist movie, where he is adding up together small pieces of a puzzle until they all fall into place. Still, nothing in the first half of the film justifies that. In a nutshell, the movie has no essence, and most of the plot makes no sense from a scriptwriter’s point of view.
What are the positive aspects of “The Gambler”
We can all agree that Mark Wahlberg is a talented actor, but he was miscast in this movie. He doesn’t fit the role because he’s not suitable for a gambling movie where he has to play a literature professor.
The original “The Gambler” movie was dark and had some essence to it. At the same time, the remake was a complete failure, despite having potential. The film was a disappointment for all the gambling fans out there. Many critics consider it a parody of the original. However, some of the dialogues, like the sequence dedicated to “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, are great but still weren’t quite fitting.
The movie's whole idea was apparently to be metaphorical, which, in our opinion, failed miserably. Luckily, the fantastic cast saved the day and made the film more enjoyable. Still, we’re sure that many Mark Wahlberg fans were utterly disappointed after watching his performance in “The Gambler.”
Since the plot circles around the main character trying to pay off his debt by making some great plays at the casino table, it will surely get your heart racing for a little while. Unfortunately, Rupert Wyatt tried too hard to be daring with the soundtrack and visual juxtaposition and too long monologues, making the final result was disastrous.
The Bottom Line
Even though the movie's name is “The Gambler,” most critics consider that it’s not related to gambling. Rupert Wyatt’s attempt to be artsy by inserting metaphors into the plot ruined it. From our perspective, this movie is not worth watching if you’re looking to watch a film about casino games.
If you want to enjoy some real gambling-related content should watch classic casino movies like “Rounders,” “21”, or “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” which are true masterpieces that successfully emulate the casino vibe.