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The Gambler (2014)

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Literature professor and gambler Jim Bennett's debt causes him to borrow money from his mother and a loan shark. Further complicating his situation, is his relationship with one of his students. Will Bennett risk his life for a second chance?

Director:

Rupert Wyatt

Writers:

William Monahan (screenplay), James Toback
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Popularity
2,374 ( 369)
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Wahlberg ... Jim Bennett
George Kennedy ... Ed
Griffin Cleveland ... Young Jim
Jessica Lange ... Roberta
Omar Leyva ... Valet
Steve Park ... Number 2 (as Stephen Park)
Brie Larson ... Amy Phillips
Chil Kong ... Blackjack Dealer #1
Michael Kenneth Williams ... Neville Baraka
Da'Vone McDonald ... Neville's Muscle
Amin Joseph ... Neville's Bookkeeper
Cjon Saulsberry ... Neville's Posse
Teebone Mitchell Teebone Mitchell ... Neville's Posse
Jasmond Carroll Jasmond Carroll ... Neville's Posse
Ria Wilkinson Ria Wilkinson ... Neville's Posse
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Storyline

Jim Bennett is a risk taker. Both an English professor and a high-stakes gambler, Bennett bets it all when he borrows from a gangster and offers his own life as collateral. Always one step ahead, Bennett pits his creditor against the operator of a gambling ring and leaves his dysfunctional relationship with his wealthy mother in his wake. He plays both sides, immersing himself in an illicit, underground world while garnering the attention of Frank, a loan shark with a paternal interest in Bennett's future. As his relationship with a student deepens, Bennett must take the ultimate risk for a second chance. Written by Paramount Pictures

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Only way out is All in.

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language throughout, and for some sexuality/nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 December 2014 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Los Altos See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,300,000, 26 December 2014, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$33,631,221, 8 February 2015
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Datasat | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The final film of George Kennedy. See more »

Goofs

At around 30 mins) When Jim Bennett is waiting for Big Ernie to pick him up, the crew is reflected in the side of a large black SUV which drives through the frame from left to right. See more »

Quotes

Jim Bennett: I could stand here, stark naked, and I could YELL AS LOUD AS I WANT, and nobody would care.
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Crazy Credits

During the opening titles, as the classic Paramount logo appears onscreen, we hear the sound of a roulette as the stars are aligning over the Paramount mountain. See more »


Soundtracks

Vive L'Amour
Traditional, arranged and performed by Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity
Courtesy of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity
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User Reviews

 
The equivalent of watching interesting parts struggling to find something to work with that shows their importance
29 December 2014 | by Steve PulaskiSee all my reviews

The seedy underworlds that are often associated with gambling and the mafia are worlds that loan themselves to film, for they breed certain characters, themes, and ideas that simply captivate, and provide audiences with ideas as to how a subculture operates. Having said that, it's a shame in the last few years, we've gotten a small, mediocre array of these films when the genre used to be dominated by the likes of people like Martin Scorsese, Al Pacino, and Robert De Niro, who knew how to create arresting films based off the mob. With Rupert Wyatt's The Gambler, a remake of the James Caan film of the same name coming at the end of the year following a recent trailer release like the film's release was an afterthought, we get another middling effort to showcase strong acting talent but mediocre-to-average screen writing as we watch a captivating idea be squandered by a bloated yet underdeveloped plot.

Mark Wahlberg plays Jim Bennett, a literature professor and a gambling addict, who doesn't know the meaning of quitting when he is up. Bennett rolls away at his odds until he is completely out of money, losing whatever winnings he accumulated and then some. He is in debt to numerous loan sharks, one of which Neville Baraka (Michael K. Williams), who, along with a Korean loan shark, informs him he has seven days to pay back a $240,000 debt or else he is whacked. Jim looks toward Frank (John Goodman), a ruthless, but almost philosophical man, who proposes to loan him the money but fears of his ability, or lack thereof, to compensate him on his investment. Meanwhile, Jim tries to keep it together in the classroom, as he stands before a group of clearly disinterested men and women, who aren't in the classroom to learn anymore than he is in there to teach. However, he takes a liking to Amy (Brie Larson), one of his students who shows great potential in writing. When discussing the idea of following one's dreams as a writer in class, he informs the remainder of his students that, "if you're not a genius, don't even bother."

Jim's thoughtless cynicism and complete disregard for his own life, without the merit or humor or any cogent philosophy or backstory, robs him of any ability to even be a tolerable anti-hero. He's a miserable character, with the only bonus of being played by Wahlberg, one of the finest leading actors working today, who communicates Jim's moroseness nicely throughout the film. Wahlberg is surrounded by other performers, who work equally well at matching his level of conviction, specifically Goodman, whose few scenes in the film amount to greatness in a predictable yet pleasant manner. Goodman delivers a great monologue about the luxury of having "f*** you money," which he estimates to be about $2.5 million. With that net worth, you don't need to take orders from anyone, and if anyone angers you, you can give them the old seven-letter phrase with great effect.

Wahlberg and Goodman are great fun to watch because they've played these kind of wayward characters in prior films, so they know the landscape and the material is fresh in their heads. However, screenwriter William Monahan (who also wrote Scorsese's Departed) threatens to lose control of the project when he writes in multiple different characters and several subplots, not developing enough to reach the level where we care about them. We already have an unlikable main character, and we can't rely on much of the cast to feed our desire to find someone we can at least sympathize with, so all we have is Jim and some bookies-turned-philosophers when the screenplay calls for it to supply character interest. Even the love story Monahan tries to concoct doesn't work, and at that point, we are essentially watching a collection of an interesting parts struggling to find something to work with while masquerading in a backdrop of strong cinematography by Greig Fraser (who also did this year's Foxcatcher, along with Zero Dark Thirty) and some well-executed musical cues that emphasize rather than embellish key moments.

The Gambler, as a whole, however, doesn't work because despite the high stakes and the large risk factor, we see the carelessness and the disinterest of our main character run so freely throughout the film, that we ask ourselves why we should care that this man is seven days away from a grisly demise. We can appreciate the actors, the way the setting is presented, and the music we're provided with to a certain degree, but when it comes time to dive into these characters, their motivations, and their will to live, they have very little, so why are we watching their lazy contentment with such a dour existence?

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Michael K. Williams, and Brie Larson. Directed by: Rupert Wyatt.


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