7.3/10
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41 user 20 critic

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 ... 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

Jacqueline Brookes, who played James Caan's mother, is ten years older than Caan. See more »

Quotes

Hips: Listen, I'm gonna tell you something I never told a customer before. Personally, I never made a bet in my life. You know why? Because I've observed firsthand what with seeing the different kinds of people that are addicted to gambling - what we would call degenerates. I've noticed there's one thing that makes all of them the same. You know what that is?
Axel Freed: Yes. They're all looking to lose.
Hips: You mean you know that!
See more »


Soundtracks

Una furtiva lagrima
from the opera L'elisir d'amore"
by Gaetano Donizetti
Sung by Enrico Caruso
Courtesy of RCA Records
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The only thing thats standing between your skull and a baseball bat is my word
8 January 2005 | by sol1218See all my reviews

**SPOILERS** Terribly depressing character study of a degenerate gambler who's luck hit rock bottom with him getting into the hole for $44,000.00 to the mob who's been bankrolling his action.

James Caan in one of his most memorable roles as Axel Freed a collage English professor, at the prestigious Fordham University in New York City, who's gambling his life away in his almost suicidal attempt to make the big score. Axel is not a total loser in the movie, he does have his share of big hits in the film, but like almost all gamblers he plays to lose more then to win by going against his better judgment, it makes things more challenging and exciting that way for him. It's when he bets and ends up broke that Alex has to go to local mob Shylock's to get cash, to continue his insane betting, that has him at the brink of having his arms legs and head disjointed and broken or busted.

Because of the subject matter as well as the fine acting from Mr. Caan and the rest of the cast the movie really grabs you and leaves you feeling almost as depressed and despondent as Axel is in it. You really feel for the man since he has an almost incurable disease, compulsive gambling, thats slowly turning this very likable and friendly person into an uncontrollable monster.

Axel is not only destroying himself but his widowed mom Naomie Freed, Jacqueline Brooks. Naomie cashes out her life savings of almost $50,000.00 to pay off her sons debts to the mob. As soon as Axel gets the money his mother gave him to practically save his life and limbs he immediately gambles it away on a number of basketball games! This puts him into even more of a hole with the gangsters then he already was in. At the same time Alexs actions has his shocked girlfriend Billie ,Lauren Hutton, walk out on him in total disgust.

Walking aimlessly in the park Axel is grabbed by two mobsters and taken to a mob hideout in the city. Given one last chance to pay up or else they come up with what even Axel feels is something thats not worth his life to do. He's told to get one of his students Spencer, Carl W. Crudup, who's a top basketball player for the collage team to shave points in a big game that he's playing in that evening with Axel giving him $5,000.00 to do it. This act of corrupting an innocent person to save his hide for the troubles that he got himself into was the straw that broke the camels back for the now extremely tormented Axel and finally opened his eyes, to not only what he was doing to himself but to those around him as well.

With his debts now finally paid off and the mob off his back Axel instead of being relived becomes suicidal and at the end of the movie gambles with the most prized and valuable item in his possession: His Life.


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