Rupert Wyatt's latest flick, The Gambler (his first since Rise of the Planet of the Apes), has its moments, but seems to lean too heavily on a sense of overwhelming depression.
Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a compulsive gambler... he also happens to teach literature at a nearby college... oh and did I mention he once wrote a novel that didn't really go anywhere. He's a lonely kind of person. But he seems to have everything... minus the right mindset. Set when he overspends and borrows more and more money from the wrong kind of people, his oldest lender gets fed up and gives him an ultimatum... Seven days to get the money. Seven days to get his shit together... and apparently seven days to work out all of his mental issues.
The Gambler seems to want so badly to say something meaningful. And while it may be a remake, it still seems to want that meaningful something to be something new. It's kind of awkward. And Mark Wahlberg is expected to carry the whole thing in the process, which he kind of does in his own Mark Wahlberg way... racing through lines as if he's always known he was gonna say them... playing a character that is only menially likable and usually annoying in his unnatural ability to make terrible decisions. Unfortunately, since the film leans so heavily on Wahlberg, it also leaves several really good actors giving really good performances in the dust. Yeah, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Jessica Lange all get their moments... but always too briefly and rarely does the film feel like returning back to their characters. And the same can be said for unknown Anthony Kelley, who has one very compelling scene only to be left out for the majority of the picture.
This is a flick that could have used an ensemble kind of vibe, but didn't. It almost feels like an attempt at a David O. Russell flick. But doesn't quite reach the highest level of what that could be. Yet I can't help but feeling like Rupert Wyatt proved something with The Gambler. He doesn't need all of the effects to make his movie good. And while I don't know that I'd classify The Gambler in the "good" category, it's still a semi-entertaining film. And honestly that's not an easy thing to make.