The Gambler  (2014)    70/100

Rating :   70/100                                                                     111 Min        15

Mark Wahlberg gives one of the finest performances of his career so far in this remake of Karel Reisz and James Toback’s 1974 classic. He plays university lecturer Jim Bennett, whose demonic gambling addiction eats away at every sinew in his body and mind until it defines everything about him, although he is adamant that he isn’t in fact a gambler, to the point that even the audience question why he is so determined to pursue his singular course of obliteration. Perhaps, as is suggested when he gives a wonderful monologue to his entire class that only one person present has the talent to ever be a writer and the rest are deluding themselves, he is simply spiralling through a depression, questioning his own validity and that of everything around him and becoming obsessed with questions of fate, luck and grand design. Whatever the reason, the film successfully captures the decidedly uncomfortable nature of watching someone endlessly self destruct.

From director Rupert Wyatt (‘The Escapist’ 08, ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ 11) and writer William Monahan (‘The Departed’ 06, ‘London Boulevard’ 10) there’s very strong, if fairly brief, support from John Goodman and Jessica Lange, and Brie Larson provides both sex appeal and the suggestion of redemption for Bennett, but it’s really Wahlberg that convincingly and intriguingly holds our attention throughout. I may be wrong, but I could also swear the dealer in the opening casino scene actually wins a hand and then plays another card anyway …

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