SYNOPSIS: Academy Award nominee Mark Wahlberg delivers a career defining performance as Jim Bennett, an English professor leading a secret double life as a high-stakes gambler. When Jim is forced to borrow from a notorious gangters, he places the lives of those he loves in mortal danger. With time running out, he must enter the criminal underworld and risk everything to keep from losing it all.


You can call The Gambler a complicated affair or rather a pointless one. The movie on one hand features a very interesting main character but the story is too bland to make it a worthwhile journey to embark on.

It’s understandable that all good actors crave for challenges in their acting career and Mark Wahlberg is no exception. In this remake of the 1974’s movie that starred James Caan, Wahlberg plays an English professor, Jim Bennett who got himself into serious shit as he dabbled in high stakes gambling in an underground casino. Despite having his rich mother (Jessica Lange) paying off his massive debts, he still ended up owing big money to a Korean, Lee (Alvin Ing) and a gangster (Michael K Williams). But Bennett doesn’t really care as he is on a self-loathing, destructive path until the safety of his student girlfriend’s life (Brie Larson) is being threatened that he devises the ultimate gamble to pry himself out of the game.

Basically we find it so hard to connect with Wahlberg’s character. Being born into a privilege family, he has the looks, connections and the brains to make it. Even his rock star persona in campus seems to work for him. Why did he choose to throw wads of money away at the casino? Is it because of his estranged relationship with his grandfather and mother? The movie has hints of it but it’s barely there. Or is it because of a lost father figure to guide him to adulthood? Again, this was briefly mentioned. It’s a frustrating watch through and through and it’s definitely not Wahlberg’s performance to begin with.

The wordy script by William Monahan (who won an Oscar for The Departed) apparently failed to make the viewing experience any better and director Rupert Wyatt who impresses with Rise of the Planet of the Apes barely channel any energy into the final material. There’s a backstory involving Jim Bennett but this is left on the cutting floor instead we have an unnecessary young girlfriend character that someone in the making of feature quickly clarify this is not Lolita.   

There’s John Goodman doing his tough guy routine, Mark Wahlberg losing the pounds to play a professor and Brie Larson looking studious and pretty. All the cast members are at their A-game. Sadly, Paramount never raises the stakes when it comes to The Gambler. It’s akin to paying for the admission to the casino and you never even play a game of Jackpot, all talk equals no fun.


Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson, Writer William Monahan and Director Rupert Wyatt briefly talks about the story, casting and filming process in Mr. Self Destruct: Inside The Gambler.

There are Six Deleted/Extended Scenes, notably Jim’s Ex-Wife which at least gave the character a decent backstory.      


The DVD transfer delivers a rich viewing experience. There’s good color balance and well-detailed palette overall. Music and dialogue in general is solid. It’s a talky movie after all and with the exception of well-placed surround ambient effects, it’s not a soundtrack to shout about.  



Review by Linus Tee



Genre: Drama
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson, Leland Orser, Jessica Lange, John Goodman, Sonya Walger, Michael K. Williams, Emory Cohen, Caitlin O'Connor, Cassandra Starr, George Kennedy, Richard Schiff, Alvin Ing
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes and Some Coarse Language)
Year Made: 2014
Official Website:


- Mr. Self-Destruct: Inside The Gambler
- Deleted/Extended Scenes


Languages: English
Subtitles: English/Bahasa Indonesian/Bahasa Malay/Chinese/
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: HVN Entertainment Singapore