|Review by Clay N Ferno
Mark Wahlberg stars in a remake of 1974’s The Gambler directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Escapist). No, not Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, that came out in 1980! Wahlberg takes on the role of Jim Bennett, a college professor with a knack for getting in deep with the wrong kinds of people while feeding his gambling habit.
The rest of the cast features heavy hitters Jessica Lange as Jim’s long-suffering rich mother, John Goodman as Frank the whale and one of our favorite actors from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and The Wire, Michael Kenneth Williams.
Brie Larsen (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is Amy Phillips, a literature student working off her student loans nights at an upscale underground Hollywood casino. Amy knows her professor’s secret but is not the only student to be affected by the Bennett’s actions—mirroring points in the original film.
There is more than debt resolution and distracted teaching in this film, however. Wahlberg delivers a serious performance of a man bordering on being out of control with his habits but not an addict.
There may be more to what we see behind Jim Bennett’s blackjack face.
Some other reviewers and I were all invited to what could best be described as a meet and greet with director Rupert Wyatt when he was in town. There, we cozied up and in the least formal way imaginable—over tea sandwiches and soup in the lobby of a Boston hotel—to take advantage of a rare opportunity to talk to the director in an intimate setting. Being on the opposite coast of such regular occurrences, I took full advantage of this and broke bread with Mr. Wyatt and we all picked his brain about working with hometown Hollywood anti-hero Wahlberg his experiences making this movie. Martin Scorsese was once attached to The Gambler, but Rupert was the final directorial choice.
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