The Gambler — 4/10

THE GAMBLER (2014, Rupert Wyatt)

At least there aren’t any poker scenes in it. But man, as cleverly as Wyatt knows how to shoot a scene, and for as much energy as he gets out of a script, Monahan’s turd is just unsalvageable. This is one of those movies where everyone is a philosopher — something that maybe works with the lead character, who is a novelist and English professor, but not everyone else (including a college basketball player, a bookie, a rich old lady, etc.). It reduces humans to mouthpieces (for a long-winded treatise on American can-do, macho posturing, fatalism, chance, and natural talent), all in service of some fast-paced dialogue that clangs so often it’s busy echoing when the next one hits.

Add to the pompous blowhard-ness of the dialogue a lot of ridiculous bullshit like super-judgmental, emotional, reactionary blackjack dealers (stop trying so hard, bit-part actors — real dealers never roll their eyes at a player or look shocked at an outcome) and a manic pixie dream girl student who just hangs around listening to Pulp on her iPod until a teacher tells her she’s brilliant. Poor Brie Larsen, reduced to a what-universe-does-she-exist-in role, and poor Jessica Lange, although she acquits herself a bit better (she’s still at her best these days on American Horror Story). John Goodman does the best at making the dialogue seem authentic, and whenever Wyatt lets the camera do the dirty work (like finally revealing at the end of a scene the source of a choir-cover of Radiohead) this threatens to turn into a good movie. But then Wahlberg steps back up to a blackjack table and gets a mean mug from the dealer who can’t believe someone is gambling money.

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