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Title: The Gambler

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:

HTS Overall Score:78

“The Gambler” is a remake of a film made 30 years ago by the same name. Starring James Caan, it was a riveting take on addition, narcissism and the effects of gambling. It was intense and powerful without being too clichéd. Unfortunately this iteration of the same story isn’t nearly as riveting or as powerful as it could be. The film starts off with a bang, but ends in a predictable whimper, with Marky Mark doing his best with a lackluster script and surrealistic directing. It goes through the motions, and there is some fun to the movie, but going through the motions only gets you so far and the lack of heart pulls the movie down from excellent to “that was pretty decent”.

Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), is a successful English professor at a prestigious college. He spends his days teaching people who don’t want to be taught and living off the dreams of when he was a successful novelist. At night he unwinds by betting at an illegal gambling house, winning some, but losing some too. He’s over $250,000 in debt at this point and he’s at the end of his rope. Born the son of a wealthy bank legend, he was left on his own by his dying grandparents to forge his own way in the world. Even though he’s a degenerate gambler with a serious addiction problem, his mother (played by Jessica Lange) bails him out time and time again. This time, though, it’s a bit too much and even she cuts him off after giving him the money to pay off his debts. Instead of paying off his debts though, Jim does the stupid thing and tries to make even more money gambling, and of course loses it all.

With only days on the line, he has to come up with a way to pay off a greedy loan shark (Michael Kenneth Williams), a Korean mobster (Alvin Ing), a money lender (John Goodman) and get out of hot water as he wallows in self-pity with a student in his literature class. As formulaic as the movie gets, we get a formulaic ending, with the kind of feel good stunt that was supposed to make the audience love it even more. The only problem is that we’ve seen it all before a million times. Everything is paint by the numbers and if you’ve seen one movie with the same generic plot you can put those dots together real quick. Marky Mark does a solid job as Jim, but he’s not given a whole lot to work with here. The directing is rather stilted and he can’t seem to ever gain traction with the audience. The opening scene of the movie with the gambling house is simply riveting. Jim is winning money hand over fist and the tension is so thick that you can cut it with a knife, so much so that you can almost hear the exhale from people around the globe when Jim loses it all. However that tension soon fizzles out as the movie tries to get all existential on us.

Jim Bennett should be a person that you pity, and that you want to see cured or go down for his addiction, but the end of the movie is too feel good, with Jim doing things his way, and beating all the odds. Especially considering that the whole time we see Jim spout out existential mumbo jumbo about the meaning of life, and giving it your all, only to see him win in a cop out manner. It just feels as if the movie was at odds with itself, giving two different morality lessons and telling two different tales. There is some great parts to the movie, and it has the potential. Maybe under the hands of a more competent director, but the end result here was a little disappointing. The best parts of the movie are at the beginning and during the scenes with John Goodman’s character (who steals every scene he was in) as the dialog is fantastic and the chemistry between Mark and John was excellent.

The essence behind the film is scratched at buy never fully realized. Jim is a hollow shell of a man living with an addiction that he cannot seem to control. His life is chaos and he’s miserable as he lives his life for the thrill of gambling. Ironically this sets itself up for the films major premise, that is, life itself is nothing but a gamble. A shoot that you either win, or you lose. The frustrating part of this whole situation is that it’s the same premise as the 1974 film, but the characters in the movie are just not fleshed out enough to fully realize the potential of the movie.


Rated R for language throughout, and for some sexuality/nudity

Video :4stars:
“The Gambler” comes to Blu-ray with a very solid, if not slightly flawed 1080p encode. The first, and most noticeable feature of the film you will see is the greying and rather soupy looking black levels. Crush is evident from the get go, and some of the blacks congeal into a weird purple tone around clothing and leaves the dark sequences looking rather flat and washed out. The daylight scenes (of where there aren’t a whole lot of brightly lit daylight scenes in a movie about underground gambling) looks much better, if not still ever so slightly washed out. Contrasts are good and colors are very satisfactory with some good pop during scenes like the tennis match with Jessica Lange, or the desert rendezvous with Jim and his student. Fine detail is excellent, showcasing great detailing on clothing and items like books. Marky Mark’s face is starting to age and even those little creases can’t be hidden with the advent of digital high definition photography.

Audio :4.5stars:
Paramount’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless audio track is the best part of this whole release. Finely detailed and very well nuanced, it gives a simply spectacular experience. Dialog is crisp and intelligible, locked up front and showing off some great panning effects amongst the front sound stage during that opening scene. Surrounds are impressive and never slow down once. They aren’t a power house action mix, but the little things are where it’s at, like the dribbling of rain in the background and the creaking of a seat as it scrapes gently on the floor. LFE is powerful without being too aggressive. There are a few scenes that REALLY amp up the volume, like the rainstorm or the end whallop just before Jim goes into the final gamble, but the low end is kept in line the rest of the movie.

Extras :3stars:

• Mr. Self Destruct: Inside "The Gambler"
• Dark Before Dawn: The Descent of "The Gambler"
• Changing the Game: Adaptation
• In the City: Locations
• Dressing the Players: Costume Design
• Deleted/Extended Scenes

Overall: :3.5stars:

I enjoyed pieces of “The Gambler” and also disliked the fizzling out of a great premise. Gambling has been a subject that is both demonized and romanticized about in our culture. One in which winning it big is a fantasy of most people to some extent. The breakdown of the effect it can have on people is a fascinating subject and one that could have been addressed so much better, if not for a script and directing that lacked a strong hand. The audio is amazing on this release, and the video quite impressive, giving this a solid thumbs up as a decent rental.

Additional Information:

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Jessica Lange
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Written by: William Monahan, James Toback
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Studio: Paramount
Rated: R
Runtime: 111 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 28th 2015

Buy The Gambler On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Low Rental

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