I missed the latest Mark Wahlberg extravaganza—a remake of the 1970s James Caan movie The Gambler (NOT the Kenny Rogers TV movie)—when it ran in theaters early this year.
Wahlberg lost a lot of weight to play Jim Bennett, an author-turned-college professor who hates life, for some reason. The film never really delves into why Jim is so miserable, and why he has developed such a nasty gambling problem.
His problem is so bad that he can’t resist gambling even when his rich mom (a strong Jessica Lange) takes out a large loan to bail him out with criminal types. He just takes the loan and gambles some more, spiraling further downward.
John Goodman has a couple of good scenes as a loan shark who has no tolerance for weakness. Brie Larson gives a strong performance as the student who inevitably pulls Jim into a relationship, and George Kennedy makes a brief appearance as Jim’s dying grandfather.
This is a good showcase for Wahlberg, who takes his character into quite a dark place. Bitterness oozes from Jim’s pores—and I like how the roots of that bitterness remain a mystery until the end of the film. The ending is a bit predictable, but it doesn’t take away from the work of Wahlberg and Lange—two pros who make The Gambler worth your while.
Special Features: There are a bunch of behind-the-scenes featurettes and some deleted and extended scenes.