ⓘ The Gambler (2014 film)

The Gambler (2014 film)

ⓘ The Gambler (2014 film)

The Gambler is a 2014 American crime drama film directed by Rupert Wyatt. The screenplay by William Monahan is based on the 1974 film The Gambler, written by James Toback. The remake, starring Mark Wahlberg as the title character, premiered on November 10, 2014 at the AFI Fest, and was theatrically released in the United States on December 25, 2014. It features George Kennedys final film performance before his death in 2016.


1. Plot

Jim Bennett is a Los Angeles literature professor who uses gambling as a way of self-destruction. He ends up owing $240.000 to Lee, the proprietor of an exclusive, high-stakes underground gambling ring, and another $50.000 to Neville Baraka, a loan shark. Lee gives Jim seven days to pay off his debts or be murdered.

During one of his classes, Jim begins an awkward discussion of literary excellence based on Shakespeare as an example, discussing how almost all aspiring writers fail to accomplish literary excellence. Jim singles out some exemplary athletes in his class for discussion. First he picks Dexter, an emerging tennis star; he later confronts a basketball student star, Lamar Allen, who does not pay attention in class but intends to become an NBA basketball player. Jim expresses his extremist view on achieving excellence in ones field or vocation of choice. If you cant be exemplary, Jim reasons, then you might as well resign yourself to mediocrity. Making a general comment to the class, he tells them that no one but Amy Phillips, a quiet student, is capable of a career in literature. Jim identifies Amy as a potential writing prodigy based on her previous writings in his class, as well as having previously encountered her working surreptitiously as a waitress at the underground gambling house. Amy develops a personal interest in Jim, which he reciprocates.

After the class, Jim visits his mother Roberta at the familys luxury estate, but she says that she will not give him any more money. Jim considers borrowing money from Frank another loan shark to consolidate his debts and buy himself some time, but refuses to do so after Franks demands include that Jim admit" I am not a man”. Jim convinces Roberta to give him enough money to pay off his debts, expressing no gratitude to her, then gambles it all away during a trip to a casino with Amy. Baraka kidnaps Jim, has him tied-up and tortured, and then confronts him with an ultimatum - if he does not convince Lamar to win one of his college basketball games by a margin of 7 points or less, he will murder Amy.

Jim goes to Frank, who advises him to change his version of a "fuck you" attitude towards life by getting enough money to build a safe house, for protection against his severe gambling losses. Frank lends him $260.000 to pay his debt to Lee, but also threatens to kill everyone in Jims personal life if he is not repaid. Lees men assault Jim when he comes to ask Lee to stake him $150.000, saying the only way he can pay his full $410.000 debt to Lee and Frank is to gamble and win. He uses the $150.000 to bribe Lamar into going along with the basketball point-shaving scheme. Jim sends Dexter to Las Vegas to bet on the game with the $260.000 he got from Frank. Lamar succeeds, barely, so Jim uses his winnings to pay his debt to Baraka, denying he knows anything about the large bet made in Vegas.

Jim then convinces both Lee and Frank to meet him in a neutral gambling den, where he wagers enough money to pay both men off - if he wins - on a single roulette spin. Successful, he leaves the money at the club for Lee and Frank. The payment to Frank is more than he owed; Frank finds Jim and offers to give back the" cream” but, to Franks amusement, Jim responds" Fuck you”. On an apparent adrenaline rush, Jim runs miles through the city to arrive at Amys apartment; he is broke, but free from debt.


2.1. Production Development

In August 2011, Paramount Pictures announced a remake of the 1974 film The Gambler with the original producers, Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff. Intended as a directorial project for Martin Scorsese, it was reported that Leonardo DiCaprio was attached as the star and William Monahan would write the screenplay.

In a 2011 interview, screenwriter James Toback gave the autobiographical story of the original films background and development, and criticized the idea of his film being remade.

Scorsese left the project and filmmaker Todd Phillips was in talks to take over as of August 2012. In September 2013, actor Mark Wahlberg and director Rupert Wyatt expressed interest in making the film.


2.2. Production Casting

As of October 17, 2013, Brie Larson was in talks to play the female lead role, alongside Wahlberg. On January 15, 2014, Emory Cohen joined the cast of the film, playing one of the professors students.


2.3. Production Filming

Shooting began on January 20, 2014. Wahlberg was spotted during the filming of The Gambler on January 21, in Los Angeles. On February 3, 2014, Wahlberg was spotted on The Gambler set in Downtown Los Angeles. On February 13, Jessica Lange and Wahlberg were spotted again during filming. On March 13, there was a basketball scene filmed in Los Angeles.


2.4. Production Music

On September 8, 2014, it was announced that Jon Brion would be scoring the music for the film, while on October 27, Film Music Reporter revealed that Theo Green composed the score for the film. Universal Music released a soundtrack album for the film on December 15, which features songs from various artists.


3. Release

The Gambler had its world premiere during the 2014 AFI Fest at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on November 10. Paramount previously set the film for a limited release in the United States on December 19, 2014, for an Oscar-qualifying run strategy, and planned to expand the film on January 1, 2015. But on December 5, Paramount announced the film would be released wide in cinemas on December 25, 2014, instead of the previous platform release plans.

On October 22, 2014, the first teaser poster and red band trailer were released. On November 5, 2014, the green band trailer was released.


4. Reception

The Gambler received a rating of 43% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 141 reviews, the sites consensus reading: "Well-paced and reasonably entertaining in its own right, The Gambler still suffers from comparisons to the James Caan classic that inspired it." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 55 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Jessica Langes performance has received critical acclaim. TheWrap wrote that Lange had one of her "meatiest film roles in ages." The Huffington Post described her performance as "ferocious" and capable of "knocking down William Monahans profanity laced dialogue with gleeful abandon" Also, the Boston Herald described her work as "strikingly memorable", which Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Indiewire have agreed with, terming her "affecting", "stirring", and "terrific". James Berardinelli from ReelViews described her as "heartbreaking as the cold, rich widow who blames herself on some level for her sons failure." Chris Nashawaty from Entertainment Weekly lauded her acting as effortless by saying can do icy in her sleep." Furthermore, Rex Reed from The New York Observer described her performance as "hard" and "venomous". Peter Travers from Rolling Stone described her performance as "reliably superb". Jeff Baker from The Oregonian stated that her acting is "fierce". Indiewire suggested Lange as a contender for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film received no Academy Award nominations in any category.

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