This is a very strange Christmas time release, as it is no where near good enough to be taken seriously in any kid of "best of" list. Wahlberg has been on a great roll recently with this movies but this falls as flat as one can. Is this terrible? No. But it has a whole lot of problems.
It's the story of Jim (Wahlberg). He is a college professor of English at a big university, and has some real personality quirks. Yes he's arrogant, dramatic, and extremely opinionated as you would expect a lecturing college prof to be, but he also has a terrible self-loathing syndrome going on. And it manifests itself with gambling. Jim is a horrible gambler, and loses money by the ton. Now he finds himself in the hole about $260,000 to two different gangsters, and has 7 days to pay it back.
He decides to consolidate the debts, and borrow a huge sum from yet another gangster to pay the debt. The stakes are high, as the third party has vowed to kill him, and his family and drain the entire family fortune is he fails to pay. So, as the self-destructive behavior rolls on, he begins a highly inappropriate sexual relationship with one of his prize students. Plus, he gets another one mixed up in a point shaving scheme to help pay off the first gangster. That is The Gambler.
Biggest problem here. If someone is really this self destructive and does this many horrible things, why do we have to watch this in a movie? Hard to watch someone, even a Wahlberg character act this way when you don't care one thing about him. And I know it's the design, it's supopsed to be hard to watch. But not this hard.
Jim is a rich, entitled moron, from huge money, with a great car and job and for some reason we are supposed to be entertained watching him throw it all needlessly away. And we never really know learn why. Jim is not likable, and more than that, he's almost unwatchable the way they have this written. Who cares? I was hoping after blowing yet another ton of money, they would just knock him off and we could go home at about the 1 hour mark.
Kudos though to John Goodman, who is the third gangster and his limited time on screen is gritty, and great. He is easily the best thing in this movie. Also, George Kennedy, the first gangster is great in his small role, and has a wonderful presence on camera. Jessica Lange sticks her head in here as Jim's mother, but has little to offer and was poorly written and over cast.
This movie is a remake of sorts from a 1974 flick, but it doesn't matter. This is hard to watch, and has no, and I mean no payoff at its conclusion. The theater was obviously irritated at the putrid ending that goes nowhere.
The Gambler. I'll give Wahlberg a mulligan on this one, as his work has been great lately. But this is certainly not. Extremely disappointing.