The Gambler

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The Gambler

When we meet Jim Bennett (Wahlberg), he’s at a dying man’s bedside. A lesser film would suggest that Bennett’s erratic antics throughout the rest of this film are because of his grief, but no: he later gives one long-winded speech about how in this world you either have everything or you have nothing so why not throw it all away? Oh right, because if you owe criminals loads of money, they’ll kill you.
The drama here is that Bennett is a man hell-bent on destruction and every time he slips up he staggers closer to the edge. Trouble is, every single character in this film wants to protect him from himself: how can you get in trouble when the whole world is looking out for you? For example, we’re told that lethal loan shark Neville Baraka (Michael K Williams) wanted to kill Bennett the moment they met because Bennett made fun of his hat, so borrowing $50,000 from Baraka has ensured his demise. But next time Bennett meets Baraka, Baraka gives him more money. In fact, all the loan sharks in this movie (even John Goodman) keep giving him money. His mother (Jessica Lange), who presumably knows him better than most, abuses him for his crazy antics… and then she gives him money.
Bennett is an English Lit professor when he’s not worshipping Gamblor, and he is the worst teacher in the history of humanity. First he insults his entire class by calling everyone present talentless losers who should give up now, then he says the only “real” writer in the lot of them is – surprise – the hottest girl in class (Brie Larson). Director Rupert Wyatt certainly puts together a good looking film, and while William Monahan’s reworking of James Toback’s 1974 screenplay is way too wordy, at least some of those words are fun to listen to. But every single scene of this film features a man treating everyone around him like dirt while pissing their money up against a wall and acting like the world owes him a living. Avoid.