Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Gambler (1974 and 2014)

A college professor exploits his mother, girlfriend, and a star student athlete in order to fuel his debilitating gambling addiction. The Gambler was first conceived by James Toback in 1974 (with nods to Dostoevsky), directed by Karl Weisz. This original is a fairly obvious degenerate gambler tale with strong performances from James Caan and Lauren Hutton (not to mention a really poor one from Paul Sorvino). The film starts strong but loses steam before taking a left turn and ending with a strange, complex and ultimately satisfying finale. It should be added that much of this film feels like its capitalizing on The Godfather's success. In 2014, the film was remade generally well by director Rupert Wyatt and with a smart, tough, and fast paced William Monahan screenplay. However the lead character is so unlikable and Mark Wahlberg is so implausible a the nihilistic, intellectual professor. Also, a subplot involving his romantic relationship with Brie Larson seems underdeveloped and confusing.

1974 version: ** 1/2 out of ****
2014 version: ** 1/2 out of ****