Bewildered by many choices made in the new Mark Wahlberg film, The Gambler, a remake based on his quasi-autobiographical script with a nod to Dostoyevsky's short story, James Toback was not quiet about his dismay that the new filmmakers, director Rupert Wyatt and screenwriter William Monahan, did not make a sequel to his movie, rather than try to redo the 1974 film starring James Caan. It would have been so easy, he said, holding court at a banquette at Colicchio & Sons in the Meatpacking. The filmmakers seem to know a lot about addiction, but not very much about gambling.
Filled with intense moments, The Gambler shows Wahlberg's character facing thugs, including one played to fleshy perfection by John Goodman, a Korean casino owner, and a loan shark (Michael Kenneth Williams) who wears a questionable black leather cap. An associate professor of literature, Wahlberg's Jim Bennett is reckless in the lecture hall, challenging students in ways that might be actionable, ridiculously cruel to his mother (Jessica Lange), and you don't actually have enough of a backstory to understand why, or what motivates his self-destruction. Finally he connects with a blond in his class, Brie Larson, reason enough for "normal" behavior, but it takes a long time, many blackjack games, brutal back-alley beatings, and spins of the roulette wheel to get him there.
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