The Gambler

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(2014) ★½

Sky Movies Premiere: PREMIERE Friday 9 October, 11.30am and 10.20pm

For this remake of Karel Reisz’s demanding 1974 drama, the film-makers certainly took a punt casting Mark Wahlberg as an English Lit teacher. An associate professor, yet. Don’t panic, he’s a bad gambler and a lousy teacher: “Life’s a losing proposition, right? Might as well get it over with.” At the blackjack tables, preferably.

And once you’re in a hole, dig deeper by taking money from criminal loan sharks. Scripted by The Departed’s Oscar-winner William Monhan, Rupert Wyatt’s new, unimproved version acknowledges only James Toback’s 1974 screenplay as a source (it was based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella).

Toback should surely have used his executive producer credit to veto the disastrously changed ending here. Wahlberg, who looks like he’s wearing a wig, acts petulant. Particularly when taking his college class. He doesn’t seem like a desperate degenerate drowning in bile and self-loathing, more like a sulky kid, especially around his mother, Jessica Lange (largely wasted).

Wahlberg has none of James Caan’s self-destructive rage in the original. He’s almost blasé, bleating about telling the truth like it’s some badge of honour, without caring who he hurts or humiliates. The only surprise is that it’s over an hour before anyone slaps him.

Favoured student Brie Larson is this year’s Greta Gerwig. The loan sharks John Goodman and Michael Kenneth Williams fare best. Williams stakes him 50 grand because he can see that Wahlberg’s addicted to losing: “Maybe I enjoy watching the show.” He’d be in the minority, I’d wager.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 111min

IMDB – The Gambler

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Rotten Tomatoes – The Gambler

Other Showings Time & Date
Sky Movies Premiere Saturday, 10 October at 11:30AM
Sky Movies Premiere Saturday, 10 October at 10:20PM
Sky Movies Premiere Sunday, 11 October at 9:45AM
Sky Movies Premiere Sunday, 11 October at 10:20PM
Sky Movies Premiere Monday, 12 October at 11:30AM
Sky Movies Premiere Monday, 12 October at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Tuesday, 13 October at 12:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Tuesday, 13 October at 10:20PM
Sky Movies Premiere Wednesday, 14 October at 11:30AM
Sky Movies Premiere Wednesday, 14 October at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Thursday, 15 October at 9:45AM
Sky Movies Premiere Thursday, 15 October at 10:20PM