7.3/10
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41 user 21 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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ON DISC
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

James Caan hated Karel Reisz, and said he would never work with him again. See more »

Quotes

Jimmy: They don't give out no prizes at the half-time Axel.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Deuce: Inside the Pretend (2018) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Classic 70s film about addiction
17 April 2002 | by shotguntomSee all my reviews

The theme of addiction is a favourite area for film makers and "The Gambler" stands as the best and most intelligent film about the addiction of gambling. The fact that it is a little known or seen film is perhaps to do with its intellectual script which, with references to Dostoyevsky, may be too pretentious for some. However, rather than being a cleched film about a good man's decent into the hell of addiction this is a film about a selfish, egotistical man, from a good background, who happily wades deeper and deeper into his obsession.

The film's title pretty much sums up the story, with the character of Axel Freed, played by James Caan, beginning the film as a compulsive gambler but sinking further and further into his habit as the film goes on. He does this despite his undoubted intelligence - he is a college lecturer - and despite the pleading of his mother, rich grandfather and friends.

Freed is by no means a likeable character. Like most addicts all he cares about is his next fix and will happily ask his mother for tens of thousands of dollars to repay an outstanding debt. No one, including his girlfriend, played by Lauren Hutton, and his college students, remain untouched by his addiction, a decision which comes back to haunt him in the film's climax.

Many people have been left puzzled by the film's ending which is cryptic and unresolved. However this merely stands as a metaphor for addiction generally, that it can never be fully cured or ever totally go away. Axel is, however, obviously disgusted with himself and the effect his gambling has had on those around him and his late night journey into the all-black neighbourhood is his way of seeking retribution for his sins.

"The Gambler" provides James Caan with, alongside Michael Mann's "Thief", the best role of his career. The character of Axel Freed provides him with a range of emotions, especially in the way he treats those he cares about, as his gambling slowly takes precedence over everything else. Anyone who thinks James Caan's career began and ended with "The Godfather" should definitely see "The Gambler", as this proves he is one of the top actors of his generation and that he can play more than just the tough guy roles he is too often saddled with.

The film is brilliantly directed by Karel Reisz as not a single scene rings false despite a 111 minute running time. After directing the classic "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" in Britain, Reisz relocated to America, but, unfortunately, "The Gambler" represents the only time he reached those heights again.


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