The Gambler (Rupert Wyatt, 2014): U.S.A.

Reviewed by Angela Ostermeier. Viewed at the AFI Fest 2014.

the-gambler-e1415134019112Mark Wahlburg gives a sensational performance as  Jim Bennett in Rupert Wyatt’s newest thriller, The Gambler. Bennett is a English professor with a taste for winning, but prefers losing money. Bennett shows severe lack of consequence while at the tables and ends up owing a debt of $240,000 to two very powerful men that are willing to take payment in the form of a death sentence. While Wahlburg’s character doesn’t seem to know when he’s hit  bottom when it comes to his gambling addiction he geniunely wants to persuade his students in believing there is more out there than what meets the eye. It is easy for Bennett to get away with such wild and reckless behavior since for the most part he is able to keep is second life private from most of his students except for his love interest in the film who is played by Brie Larson. Larson’s character plays a student in an inappropriate relationship with Bennett, her professor.  She also works at the underground tables where Wahlburg’s character frequents. She eventually goes with him to the casinos where he blows all of the $260,000 his mother, played by Jessica Lange, gives him to get out of debt in the first place. This puts Bennett deeper into the toxic world of gambling and causes his benefactors to threaten harm on his loved ones.

The movies theme really shows that every person is struggling with something whether it be Bennett’s gambling problem or his students basketball career being in jeopardy.  As each character deals with the dilemma of  why they don’t push themselves to be better, smarter, or tougher they come to the conclusion that “being in the middle is the safest place to be.” The film is truly about conquering that belief.

Although the film is lead by strong performances with an all star cast the plot line and the overall gripping nature of the film falls a little under the bar. Including Wahlburg, Lange, and John Goodman as Bennett’s wealthy uncle willing to help him, but at a price. The best part about this movie was watching Mark Wahlburg’s lips turn “fifty shades of  blue,” pun intended. Wahlburg lost an impressive 60 lbs. for the movie which left his bulging muscles behind this year in yet another terrible Michael Bay movie. It is odd to see him choose such a variety of other works when word is he is potentially up for an Oscar for this role. However, McConaughey  is now doing car commercials so I guess you never know. Especially when it comes to “Marky Mark” who has such an extensive performing career and even though this films storyline and general punch leaves a bittersweet taste in audiences mouths Wahlburg’s  star is shining brightly and I think that this new role is a turning point in the actor’s career.

Overall, when scrolling through a list of what movie to go see this weekend at the box office I would wait until this film comes out on DVD or better yet Netflix.

About this entry