The critics' reviews of The Gambler were lukewarm at best. But having seen everything else out and it being a rainy weekend I ventured in. Mark Wahlberg plays Jim Bennett, a very bright young man burdened with the legacy of a grandfather who was extremely successful and a mother who was so used to wealth she could no longer relate to her only son or understand issues he had, and a personal life devoid of anything or anyone.
No spoiler here, Bennett is an addicted gambler who is in it big time, as in winning and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a night. And when the film opens he is not on a winning streak. By day he is a cynical college English professor. By night he can be found at the black jack tables.
John Goodman plays the role of Frank and does it very well as only Goodman can. He throws his weight and voice into the part giving Jim both fatherly advice and serious intended threats.
Several times I started to gather my things, get up, and walk out of the theater. I tired of Walhberg's brooding indifference. I tired of watching the train wreck of his life. I did not wish to see the lives of characters in his life pulled into the path of the train hitched to Walhberg. These included Brie Larson, who plays a love interest and Anthony Kelley, who plays a top ranked student athlete.
But I stayed. There always seemed to be something telling me,"There is a story here. Just hang in there."
Bennett's run in with the Korean loan sharks to whom he owes a tremendous amount of money, as well as the debt he owes to Frank puts him in one Hell of a fix. He finds that not only is his life on the line but the well being of the innocents around him are also in jeopardy simply because of their relationship with him. Suddenly he realizes there is more on the line than just his life. When the odds are against him, he manages to wage it all, as only a gambler would, and win.
However when it was all over, I still had some lingering questions. I will not share them because I do not wish to spoil any plot lines. Although the action and what happens in the movie is anything but simple, a story such as this does not easily end. Addiction is serious, should someone survive owing tremendous amounts of money they do not have to the underworld, one does not simply walk away from the tables. Surviving does not bring about sobriety. If so, addiction would be so easy to handle.
I took a gamble with this movie and the jury is still out.