Think back to your “rock bottom.” Now, multiply that by a hundred and you can start to understand the predicament Jim Bennett gets himself into in the remake of the 1974 film “The Gambler.” Played by Mark Wahlberg, Bennett is a cynical college professor with a very serious gambling addiction. He starts spending his free time participating in an illegal gambling ring run by the Chinese mob. Within the first night, he is $260,000 in debt to the mob and a loan shark. They take his car, his possessions and finally, Bennett puts his life up as collateral.
As the movie progresses, Bennett starts to loose it. He gives up on teaching and starts living a reckless life. His depressed, irrational behavior becomes a little ridiculous. Instead of solving his problems, he makes them worse. It is almost annoying to watch. Addiction is a dark disease that feels uncontrollable at times. However, Wahlberg exaggerates this way too far. As the movie goes on, it is clear that the focus is less about the addiction and more about the pursuit of manhood.
As a college professor, Bennett becomes selfish and lazy. He starts each class with “What if” scenarios and then belittles everyone in the room, even himself. After a while, all his students stop coming to class except for the one he is romantically involved with and the basketball player that needs to pass the class. As a college student, I find all of this way too taboo and not realistic at all. Things take a turn for the worse after he puts the only two students who stick around in serious danger. However, the administration does not seem to care or notice. Bennett’s career is hard to presume true.
The beautiful Jessica Lange makes an appearance as Bennett’s rich mother. She tries her best to help her son but much to her dismay she can’t. Although her relationship with her son is strained, she seems to be the only voice of reason in Bennett’s cruel world.
Amy Phillips, portrayed by Brie Larson, is Bennett’s English student who works at the gambling ring as a waitress. She sees hope in Bennett after he places multiple high bets and loses. Phillips then tries to befriend him after he tells his whole class that she is the most talented student. Her calm, naive character inspires Bennett to better himself as a person and, for once and for all, kick his addiction.
Overall, the movie was mediocre. It seemed as though the director and Wahlberg were trying too hard to win an award. However, Lange and Phillips were the highlights of this movie due to their innocence and virtue.
After Bennett somehow saves the day with a ridiculously large bet, I left the movie theater confused and unsatisfied. I felt as though the movie went on for too long. If the film had been more realistic and less grueling, it would have been much better.