The Gambler Review – A Fast Moving, Raw, Pulse Pounding Ride

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"The Gambler," from Paramount Pictures and Winkler Films, brings to the screen a low, close to the ground, pulse pounding, fast moving ride through an addict's universe, with quick turns, sharp dialogue, moments of brilliance, and an unpredictable ending.

 

Directed by Rupert Wyatt, "The Gambler" stars Mark Wahlberg, as Literature Professor Jim Bennett, with Brie Larson, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alvin Ing, Emory Cohen and Anthony Kelley rounding out the cast.

 "The Gambler," is full of analogies of the trip Jim Bennett, played with committed intensity and authenticity by Mark Wahlberg, is taking throughout the seven days we are privileged to witness as scenes blend toward a climatic, explosive, end.

From the beginning when the camera angle hugs the road, a fast moving low ride, through unrecognizable streets in a city so well known and photographed a glimpse should provide the clue.

It isn't until daylight, after Bennett is deep into a seven day fight with the devil, who's single purpose it is to destroy him, that a single pan shot of the muted pink sunrise over the California coast, and even that is difficult to discern for those unfamiliar with it, which is also an analogy of the 'where the hell am I' hangover our gambler, Jim Bennett is experiencing.

Gambling, Bennett's demon is ready to wrestle him to the ground and take his life if necessary for the simple reason that he can. A compulsive gambler, he plays for the thrill until the money or the ATM is empty.

"The Gambler" is a trip into the underworld of excess, the rawness of life in the very fast lane where people see and become things that have no place in the light of day.

Bennett's light of day, brings him to the campus of UCLA, a college literature professor attempting to motivate a class of 'I'm here for the credit' students into realizing their inner genius. With the clock ticking, we met the rest of Bennett's circle; Jessica Lange plays his exasperated mother, Roberta, tired and finished bailing her son out of his very expensive habits and troubles.

His sense of entitlement comes freely as his grandfather was the 17th richest man in California and as we find out in the beginning the ramblings of a death bed confession are in actuality the truth. A self made man, the grandfather decides to allow his sinking grandson the option of making it on only his wits or sinking and his utterances that stun our deeply addicted gambler are the catalyst that bring on the latest binge.

Out and severely strapped, Bennett hits the big name loan shark, Frank, played by John Goodman, to pay off those violent money men who staked him. Goodman continues to surprise with the gambles he's willing to take. He is no less surprising in his role as the good guy/bad guy who delivers a memorable "fuck you" monologue that should become a permanent mantra for any person looking to go double or nothing at life.

I enjoyed "The Gambler." It had moments of extraordinary brilliance. It was genuinely good, holding the attention and some moments stopped me in my mental track with the genius.

"The Gambler" delivers. Director Rupert Wyatt has extracted from this talented troupe exceptional performances.

Mark Wahlberg gives a fourth dimensional performance,in a three dimensional medium, as the stench from his deeply addicted ways permeates beyond the screen.  

John Goodman is becoming a risk taker. Always able to deliver, his performances, of late, have become riskier, for whatever reason and again the director is to be credited for taking these characters to the outer limits.

Jessica Lange, Michael Kenneth Williams and Alvin Ing each make the scenes opposite Wahlberg memorable.  Newcomers Brie Larson, Emory Cohen and Anthony Kelley hold their own against the intense Wahlberg.

Wahlberg hits the notes as his arch takes him to arrogant, entitled, uncaring, aloof and unconcerned as the world around him crashes.

Wyatt pulls the worst of this character and packages it into a redeemable, albeit challenged, guy and by the films end one of the rare lucky ones.

"The Gambler "is written by William Monahan, Academy Award winner for "The Departed," who brings his poetic flair for storytelling, his genius to this film.

"The Gambler" opens December 19, 2014. Check Local listings.

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