7.3/10
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The Gambler (1974)

Axel Freed is a literature professor. He has the gambling vice. When he has lost all of his money, he borrows from his girlfriend, then his mother, and finally some bad guys that chase him. Despite all of this, he cannot stop gambling.

Director:

Karel Reisz

Writer:

James Toback
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Caan ... Axel Freed
Paul Sorvino ... Hips
Lauren Hutton ... Billie
Morris Carnovsky ... A.R. Lowenthal
Jacqueline Brookes Jacqueline Brookes ... Naomi Freed
Burt Young ... Carmine
Carmine Caridi Carmine Caridi ... Jimmy
Vic Tayback ... One
Steven Keats Steven Keats ... Howie
London Lee London Lee ... Monkey
M. Emmet Walsh ... Las Vegas Gambler
James Woods ... Bank Officer
Carl W. Crudup ... Spencer
Allan Rich ... Bernie
Stuart Margolin ... Cowboy
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Storyline

Axel Freed, a college professor and very successful at his job, is addicted to gambling, who wins big, but loses it all just as fast. He borrowed from his girlfriend, his wealthy mother, and last but not least a loan shark. It just gets worse for him because he can't stop. But when his girlfriend decides to leave him, his mom decides to disown him, and the mob wants to kill him, Axel decides to make a big score to win big and pay off everyone to stay alive and keep his dignity and come out ahead. Written by Wesley Benton

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

For $10,000 they break your arms. For $20,000 they break your legs. Axel Freed owes $44,000.

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 February 1975 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Spieler ohne Skrupel See more »

Filming Locations:

Tucson, Arizona, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Robert Evans was keen to produce the film as his first credited production at Paramount Pictures, but Irwin Winkler, according to Writer James Toback, wouldn't bow out, despite attempts by the studio to give him other projects. Evans went on to make Chinatown (1974) instead. See more »

Quotes

Hips: Forty-four thousand dollars, Axel. It ain't just numbers.
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Soundtracks

Symphony No. 1 in D
by Gustav Mahler (as Mahler)
Performed by Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest (as The Concertgebouw Orchestra)
Conducted by Bernard Haitink (as Haitink)
Courtesy of Philips Records
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User Reviews

A Meditation On Losing
6 September 2008 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

Sometimes he wins; but mostly he loses. Gambling is an addiction for Axel Freed (James Caan), a professor of English literature and lover of classical music. The film is set in New York City.

The object of the obsession can be almost anything on which a bet is placed: dice, cards, a basketball game, a college football match. It really doesn't matter. Axel just can't keep from making bets. He's like two different people. In a classroom setting, he is logical and intelligent. But when betting, he throws away the logic in favor of risk taking. In these situations he seems to lack the normal psychological "brakes" that could be applied to his destructive over-betting. In his own words: "I like the threat of losing". And always in the background are the thugs and the con men that lord over Axel, when he borrows to gamble, but can't pay his debt.

Some of Axel's classroom lectures have real thematic value. The ideas relate both to him, and incidentally to some modern-day politicians. For example, a person "... claims an idea is true because he wants it to be true, because he says it's true. And the issue isn't whether he's right, but whether he has the will to believe he's right, no matter how many proofs there are that say he's wrong". Axel continues: "D.H. Lawrence says Americans fear new experience more than they fear anything. They are the world's greatest dodgers, because they dodge their own very selves". Heavy stuff.

Despite a disappointing ending, "The Gambler" is an interesting character study of a personality type that is all too prevalent in modern society. The film's color cinematography is generally dark, in keeping with the film's theme. Overall acting is fine. Paul Sorvino gives an especially convincing performance, as does James Caan. The plot proceeds rather slowly.

Mostly, the film has terrific thematic value. It encourages the viewer to pause and reflect, to ponder, to question one's own motivations. That is a trait lacking in many current movies.


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