The Gambler

The Gambler 2014 Class

When people talk about how great the ’70s were for character-driven stories, Karel Reisz’s The Gambler should be, but hardly ever is, included in that conversation. Screenwriter James Toback’s script was a deeply personal depiction of his own gambling addiction, and the leather-tough James Caan disappeared into the atypical role of a guy who could easily be pushed around. Forty years later Mark Wahlberg subverts his own tough guy image in director Rupert Wyatt‘s dense, subversive and surprisingly meta remake of Reisz’s original picture. This is a rare remake that stands on its own two feet, which is immediately established at the start of the film. There’s a reason why even the characters’ names have been altered — Axel Freed (James Caan) is now Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg). The original and this remake are almost entirely different beasts, despite some familiarity. Although a modern retelling is typically expected to be slicker and safer than its original source, this story remains faithful to its prick of a protagonist. Bennett is, by all means, an unlikable person. Not only because he has a serious gambling problem, but because he’s a character without a filter, someone who thinks he’s telling the truth but who, more often than not, is really spouting loads of bullshit.


Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler

Last year Mark Wahlberg was on a roll. He showed he hadn’t lost any of his comedic chops from I Heart Huckabees in his comically sincere work in Pain & Gain and he delivered a refreshingly unshowy performance in Lone Survivor. What followed those two performances, which displayed what a wide-range he has, was Transformers: Age of Extinction, where Wahlberg played a Texan with a slippery Boston accent. After recently trying to revisit that film — which I gave up on 20 minutes into its 20 hour hour running time — it became noticeably clear that, strangely, Wahlberg isn’t really an action star. He undoubtably has the presence for those roles, but when you look at his track record in the genre — Max Payne, Planet of the Apes, and more — he never delivers the caliber of performances we know he’s capable of. Of course that kind of material generally doesn’t offer the juiciest of characters, but nonetheless, it’s rarely a role he seems comfortable in. Where Wahlberg seems at home is in this red band trailer for The Gambler. The actor plays Jim Bennett, an English professor with a serious gambling problem. Wahlberg is stepping in the shoes of James Caan, who played the lead role 40 years ago in Karel Reisz’s original film.



Though she’s still a spectacularly young lady, Brie Larson has been a presence in the acting world for quite a while now. If you look back at her filmography, her earliest work came in the late 90s, when she must have still been knee-high to a grasshopper. Still, it’s only been in recent years—let’s say since her reoccurring role on TV’s United States of Tara ended—that her career has started to show signs of giving off sparks that are bound to start a fire. Since 2011 Larson has shown potential in head-turning but small roles in things like Rampart, The Spectacular Now, and most recently Don Jon, she proved herself to be likable on a mainstream level by killing it as the main romantic interest in 21 Jump Street, and she proved herself to have the dramatic chops necessary to anchor a film as its star with the small scale drama Short Term 12. Brie Larson isn’t yet a name that many people know, but she’s starting to become a “that girl” that people recognize, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before she gets that one important role that takes her to the next level and establishes her as one of the hot new faces of young Hollywood. It’s said that cream always rises to the top, after all.


It’s been hard for Mark Wahlberg these last few years. He’s starred in both of Michael Bay’s most recent movies: this year’s Pain & Gain and next year’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. Standing near explosions, day in and and day out, and all he gets in return is more money than you or I could possibly dream of? It’s a tough life. But things might just be on the up and up for the former Funky Buncher. Variety is reporting that Wahlberg is in talks to star in The Gambler, an update on the 1974 film The Gambler (which, in turn, was based off a Dostoyevsky novel called – you guessed it- “The Gambler”). As well, Rupert Wyatt, last seen directing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is in talks to direct.


Todd Phillips

After dominating the world with the comedic stylings of three hungover delinquents, Todd Phillips is making the wise decision to transition into serious drama. It makes sense. There’s a whisper thin line between laughs and abject sorrow, especially the kind of laughs that Phillips is used to eliciting, and he’s the kind of storyteller that can almost assuredly handle both with equal skill. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Phillips is about to take over the seat for The Gambler from a huge name in filmmaking. Martin Scorsese was previously planning on directing from a William Monahan script (which is, you know, not a bad partnership), but now Scorsese is out and Phillips is in talks with Paramount to craft a remake of the 1974 Karel Reisz movie starring James Caan as a literature professor who demolishes his own life with a gambling addiction. Obviously, obsessed men with behavioral problems fit right into Phillips’ wheelhouse, but the question is how he’ll work Mr. Creepy into the script. If the Monahan screenplay is still in play, Phillips may have just landed in a hell of a position to surprise a lot of people. Paramount would be wise to draw up the paperwork.



Yes, Martin Scorsese is planning a remake of 1974’s The Gambler with Departed screenwriter William Monahan (and trying hard to get Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role). Yes, the original’s writer James Toback isn’t happy that he wasn’t told about the project. Yes, he wrote a letter to Deadline saying so. But, with all due respect to Toback and the slight that was committed against him, the boring interpersonal drama of who didn’t call whom is nowhere near as fascinating as the rest of the story that he relates – namely, him selling a very personal script, finding the right lead, and the impact the film had. There are at least a half dozen times in his brief recounting that will draw either genuine laughter, or the kind that comes when no other response will do. His situation with getting his check signed at Paramount is outrageous, but it has this spark of what working in that world can sometimes be like. At any rate, it’s a compelling tale of Hollywood success and confusion that deserves to be read.

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published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.27.2015

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