The Gambler

three cigars

Three cigars


This was a very interesting film.

First, the actors. Talk about a mixed bag of really good actors, some in incredibly small roles. George Kennedy plays the grandfather who ironically dies as the movie starts.  I say ironically because I thought George was dead already. Andre Braugher, who was incredible in the TV series Homicide, has one scene, about two lines, and then is gone. Jessica Lange plays the mother and is amazing. If you have never seen her in Cape Fear, you need to. John Goodman, who is always good, takes on a very serious role and in my mind deserves an Oscar nod for this one. Mark Wahlberg gives an outstanding performance for the most part, although in some of the scenes his acting ability falls short.

What makes the movie, however, is the dialog. The philosophical discussions are riveting.  From Goodman’s diatribe on what constitutes one’s ability to say “Fuck You”, to Wahlberg’s lecture on what it takes to succeed above all others. The classroom discussions are a bit unnerving, and capture how many professors must feel. One of the lighter moments is the encounter of Jessica Lange and the bank officer is when she is trying to take out money.

The only real weakness is the middle drags a bit, and there are some scenes that are added without explanation. This is due to poor editing and makes the film not as good as it could have been.

The original movie, in 1974, starred James Caan and was one of his better acting roles.  It is interesting that in that film the debt was $44,000 and in the new version is $260,000. But the big difference between the two is the ending. In the original, one is left wondering, in the remake the ending is clearcut. Not to spoil it, but as the tension builds, even though you can guess the outcome, there is still some doubt. Wahlberg’s run at the end is a great metaphor for the freedom of having shed an addiction.

This could have been a four cigar movie, but I have to give it three cigars and a few ashes.

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