Run time: 111mins


Director: Rupert Wyatt

Cast: Jessica Lange, Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson, John Goodman, George Kennedy

Synopsis: Jim Bennett is a risk taker. Both an English professor and a high-stakes gambler, Bennett bets it all when he borrows from a gangster and offers his own life as collateral. Always one step ahead, Bennett pits his creditor against the operator of a gambling ring and leaves his dysfunctional relationship with his wealthy mother in his wake. He plays both sides, immersing himself in an illicit, underground world while garnering the attention of Frank, a loan shark with a paternal interest in Bennett’s future. As his relationship with a student deepens, Bennett must take the ultimate risk for a second chance…


If you are of a certain age you may have a feeling of deja vu – you have seen or read this all before – either Karel Reisz’s 1974 film based on James Toback’s semi-autobiographical novel starring James Caan or Dostoyevsky’s dark short novel, also The Gambler. One thing is sure – it will have been better than this outing.

Director Rupert Wyatt’s The Gambler comes over as a rather silly film with a dubious message, despite strong performances from the ensemble.

Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is on the one hand an arrogant, immature rich kid who is on a chaotic suicide trip with the vast family fortune and on the other a former successful writer and credible enough literature teacher lecturing his students about existentialism.  He has an unexplained antipathy towards his mother, Roberta (Jessica Lange) and is falling in love with his talented student, Amy (Brie Larson).  The film benefits from a great turn by a bald headed John Goodman as Frank, a paternalistic loan shark.

Not a film about addiction or about the allure and mechanics gambling it seems to be about a not too attractive man who is bailed out by love and other people’s money.

Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures