Movie Review: The Gambler

the gambler

I saw two movies in the theater last week. The one I had been looking forward to for a while was Inherent Vice (review coming later this week), and the one I kind of just stumbled into and thought, “Eh, why not? This could be fun” was The Gambler.

After all, you know how much of a gambler I am (or maybe you don’t, but just take my word for it).

The Gambler was a lot of things, but unfortunately fun wasn’t one of them.

This film is set in modern day Los Angeles, contains no super natural beings or wizardry, no special effects or sci-fi aspects, and yet I’ve seen movies set in Middle-earth that were more believable than this sucky piece of art.

The plot is straight forward enough. Jim Bennett, played by Mark Wahlberg, is a college professor who has an insane gambling addiction. He falls into trouble early in the movie when a man who operates an underground casino informs him he owes $260,000 in gambling debt. It gets worse when he borrows money from a loan shark named Neville Baraka (played Michael Kenneth Williams…Omar, to you fans of The Wire) and immediately loses it doing what else, gambling of course. And from here it’s just a downward spiral. He has multiple opportunities to pay off his debts or come damn close, but instead he takes any money he has and keeps gambling with it until he loses.

And this is where The Gambler leaves the real world and enters a dark, twisted fantasy (not a nightmare because it never seems like the main character is too upset about his predicament). You can’t convince me there’s a single person on this planet who would gamble as recklessly as Bennett does in this story. It just doesn’t make any sense, unless he wants to die. And if that’s the case, fine, die already. Don’t come to a sudden realization that you do indeed want to live and then start to pick up the broken pieces of your life, all of which come through self-infliction.

It’s amazing that the marketing tag for this movie is “The only way out is all in” because that’s not even remotely true. It should say, “The only way out is all in…or by borrowing the money from your filthy rich mother.”

Bennett has real death threats hanging over his head from all the people he owes money to, but every time he’s given money, he just goes to a casino and blows it. It’s ludicrous.

In case the tone of this review isn’t crystal clear, this movie was infuriating. It was such a waste of time. It was a stupid, pointless, unbelievable story that made me long for a good gambling film like Rounders.

In fact, do yourself a favor and skip The Gambler and instead watch Rounders again (conveniently available on Netflix Instant). It’s a much better use of your time.

You should see this movie if: Ummm…hmm…I guess if you like semi-suspenseful casino scenes enough to overlook the horrible 95 minutes surrounding those scenes; if you are a family member of Mark Wahlberg’s (after all, he’ll probably ask you if you’ve seen it).

You should not see this movie if: You’re a human being with functioning eyeballs and ears.

It’s probably not a shocker that this movie is going to get the worst rating ever on the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS). I’m giving it a 1.5 out of 10.

Here’s a little teaser for the Inherent Vice review coming later this week: I rate it higher than The Gambler.