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Posts Tagged ‘Jessica Lange’

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

“THE GAMBLER”  My rating: C

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The protagonist of “The Gambler” is an infuriatingly self-centered, stubbornly self-destructive mess. Except that he’s being sold to us as a romantic, devil-may-care rugged individualist.

Sorry, I’m not buying.

In the opening moments of director Rupert Wyatt’s film (a remake of the Karel Reisz melodrama from 1974), Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) drops in on an illegal casino in the basement of a sprawling seaside LA mansion. He heads immediately for the blackjack table.

Jim doesn’t mess around with strategy. He bets everything he has — $10,000 — on a turn of the card. When he wins, he then bets all of that on the next hand.  This continues until he loses everything and walks away with empty pockets.

Actually, his pockets aren’t empty.  They contain  $250,000 in I.O.U.s from Mr. Lee (Alvin Ing), the Korean gangster who runs the establishment, and from Neville (Michael K. Williams), a well-heeled local banger who sagely observes: “I think you’re the kind of guy who likes to lose.”

Owing so much to such unpleasant characters would be enough to make most of us curtail our gambling activities. But not Jim. He wheedles and begs until he gets another loan, loses that money, and then shrugs when the heavies show up to demand payback.

Jim is what is known in the trade as a “degenerate gambler,” a guy who couldn’t stop if his life depended upon it — which in this case it does. Ironically, during daylight hours Jim is kinda respectable — a published novelist who teaches college-level English lit — although from what we hear of his lectures, his class should be called “Early 21st Century Pretentiousness.”

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