LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Should we tempt fate in the things we do, in the things we regret? Or are we helpless witnesses to destiny? Red or black? Such themes are prevalent in the subtle yet artistically compelling thriller
Wahlberg plays Jim Bennett, a deeply depressed college literature professor, who finds his escape through gambling, hence part of the title. Jim's demons dig him in a deep hole, owing a great deal of money to dangerous people. Jim unapologetically has no intention of paying his debts, and vents his frustrations on life openly in his classroom of self aware, Apple-endorsing students.
+ The Gambler
+ Rated R
+ Running Time: 111 minutes
+ Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson, Jessica Lange, John Goodman
+ Directed by: Rupert Wyatt; Writers: William Monahan (screenplay), James Toback
+ 3 stars out of 4
A positive light in Jim's life, and notably the film is his student and romantic interest Amy (Brie Larson), as the one person who sees beyond Jim's flaws and self pity. But Amy is helpless to know Jim has put his life in danger, for which Jim continues to dismiss. His nonchalance toward the gravitas of his life also alienates him from his mother, the icy Roberta, played ever so effectively by Jessica Lange, when he pleads for half-hearted help.
The narrative here is a man who is either going to live or die, and the key players in his life both friend and enemy along his journey toward his fate.
John Goodman steals the show in his crucial few scenes as the menacing yet hilarious gangster kingpin Frank, playing as Jim's only possible way out.
The Gambler is a thriller, but isn't driven by gratuitous action. The film's tension is delivered in the dialogue of the plot, which is probably a more realistic approach. The violence is limited but effective. If viewers are to struggle with understanding this film, it is with empathizing with Jim's character. Like any good character, Jim has his flaws. And with any truly compelling character, he has arguably as many flaws as redeeming qualities. Wahlberg is a remarkably compelling actor, delivering a grittiness as well as a gleaming, vulnerable humanity. It's his performance that carries the film and keeps it entertaining from start to its end.
The Gambler is now playing in theaters everywhere.