The Gambler (Movie Review)

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A movie about a teacher who does high stakes gambling on the side? What a ridiculous premise for a movie. No one like that exists. Yes, I know I haven’t posted a poker session in a while. My plan is to do one tomorrow, but I digress. I did feel a little obligated to go see the movie. I wasn’t really drawn to it based upon any of the trailers. After seeing the whole movie I should have went with my gut.

I would like to note I have not seen the original at all, so I’m unable to compare it to this remake.

There are good parts about the movie. They all revolve around John Goodman. He is the only character in the movie who actually delivers the excellent lines given to him with more than one facial expression. His monologue half way through the movie about getting your life to a place you can just say, “Fuck you!” to everyone is particularly excellent. Granted, it is tough for Mark Wahlberg to emote behind the sunglasses he wears for half of the movie, but even when we can see his eyes, they are as monotone as the rest of his performance.

If it seems like I’m being harsh on the movie, I most definitely am, but not because it was across the board terrible. Several excellent themes are presented but promptly ignored. The main underlying theme seems to be the source of geniuses. Are they born? Do they require stressful lives in order to reach potential? If you’re born into luxury can you self flagellate enough to have genius appear within you? These are all good questions and you can definitely weave a narrative around them, but this movie just wants to present some great dialogue about the questions and then promptly hope you forget about them.

The ending was irritating not just for the way it ignored the themes of the first two acts, but also because I don’t really know what was accomplished and I certainly don’t understand why the main character took the route they did. I could name dozens of simpler paths to the ending that occurred if that’s really what our protagonist was going for, but I’m still not certain what if any closure we got.

There was one gambling trope that got repeated several times in this movie and I need to point out. When someone(in a movie) walks up to a table in a casino and goes to put a big bet down, the dealer will get this nervous expression and the player has to encourage the dealer to keep the game going. This doesn’t happen. Dealers are prepped not to react at all when a player puts a bet down. As long as the bet is within the limits of the table, they’re not going to give any strange look when a player places a large bet. This is the dealer’s 9-5 job, odds are they are bored, and another addict coming to the table to put down a big bet isn’t going to turn them into an unprofessional mess.

Maybe my low expectations going in tainted my experience, but if this movie can’t appeal to someone who is also a teacher and a gambler, I’m not certain who will come out of it feeling satisfied.

★★☆☆☆ – The great dialogue is ruined by the poor story and John Goodman’s character is ruined by not having a big enough part. A reminder of my rating system

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