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The Gambler | Film review - Mark Wahlberg's Eng Lit prof plays for high stakes in slick crime drama sequel

THE GAMBLER - Mark Wahlberg is Jim Bennett
(Image credit: Claire Folger)
(Image credit: Claire Folger)

Mark Wahlberg is intense and compelling as a gambling-addicted university professor in suspenseful crime drama The Gambler, a slick update of a grittier 1974 James Caan movie. But his character’s self-destructive behaviour strains the viewer’s sympathy almost as much as it strains that of the people around him, including his wealthy mother (a bitter Jessica Lange), the Jewish mobster he approaches for a loan (a strikingly bald John Goodman), and his most talented creative writing student (a winsome Brie Larson). ‘It’s either victory, or don’t bother’ is his attitude to life, which makes for some gripping scenes as he gets into perilous scrapes with vengeful loan sharks and Korean gangsters, but rings somewhat hollow as philosophy.

Certificate 15. Runtime 111 mins. Director Rupert Wyatt. The Gambler is released on DVD & Blu-ray by Paramount Home Media Distribution. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5gPQXbFs9Y To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.