The Gambler

Director: Rupert Wyatt (2015)

Call the bluff on this glossy gambling movie that will leave you out of pocket and feeling cheated for watching.

Based on the superior 1974 film of the same name, the always watchable Mark Wahlberg plays to the manor born Jim Bennett, a masochistic, nihilistic and wildly unsympathetic university professor.

It’s a brave piece of casting which treats us to the novelty of former Funky Bunch frontman Wahlberg lecturing to University students on the merits of Shakespeare.

He’s a spoilt, whiny, attention-seeking brat with self-destructive tendencies who self-medicates his existential crisis by playing cards, and is not above developing a relationship Brie Larson’s genius young student.

Jim spends his nights gambling in illicit dens and his days teaching, leaving him too busy to put on a tie or brush his hair.

When not betting money he doesn’t have or antagonising gangsters for the empty thrill of it, Jim’s isolating himself from family and colleagues and generally feeling sorry for himself.

After a great deal of behaviour I wouldn’t allow from my four year old, Jim owes a quarter of a million dollars to various bad people and has seven days to pay it back. Or else.

Reduced to trying to hock his watch to stake another game, violence is repeatedly threatened for non-payment, and Jim wants to be hurt so badly its hard to feel sorry for him when he’s badly is.

Jessica Lange plays his tennis playing mother, and the elegant actress is particularly hard done by, but Jim probably thinks that’s her fault for enabling his addiction.

And in four brief appearances, the shaven-headed John Goodman raises the acting ante as a philosophising and kindly intentioned loan shark.

★★☆☆☆

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