Throughout his career Mark Wahlberg has set himself up as the tough guy action hero, but every so often he pops out a comedy or drama piece that gives him more of a chance to flex his acting muscles. His latest The Gambler is a different kind of film for him and features a great supporting cast including Jessica Lange, Brie Larson, John Goodman, and Michael Kenneth Williams, but does it deliver the dram it appears to from the trailers or will it be a lost bet?
The Gambler follows an English professor and high-stakes gambler who puts it all on the line when he borrows from a gangster and offers his own life as collateral. He attempts to play both sides, immersing himself in an illicit, underground world while garnering the attention of a loan shark with a paternal interest in his future. This is one of those movies that has a lot going on in relation to the twists and turns of the gambling, but struggles to really find any real depth. Thankfully the excellent performances help to make it work a bit better than it would have otherwise. Wahlberg delivers a strong performance conveying and internal torture with his personal issues and gambling issues. His physical appearance is as big a change as the type of role. He has dropped the muscled look fans are used to and slimmed down to an almost thin sickly look that is perfect for the character. He doesn’t look sickly, but it helps to convey the weakness he is dealing with as a gambler in a physical manifestation. The rest of the cast do a good job, but its John Goodman who really steals the show. He brings a maniacal presence to the role that shows his pure evil, yet you sense a hint of parental care he has for Wahlberg’s character while making sure that he understands that it is all still business. As the film progresses the story picks up a bit more, but it never fully finds much to really latch onto to make it as compelling as it could have been. In the end the film never offers up much more than a generic gambling flick filled with great performances.
While the film struggles to find what it could have been, it is still not a bad movie. The performances alone make it worth checking most notably Goodman as mentioned above. Hopefully Wahlberg will take more roles like this as he is excellent in the role and given a better film would have taken it even further over the top. In addition to the film, this release deals up numerous special features including deleted and extended scenes as well as numerous featurettes. Step up to the table and place your bets when The Gambler comes to Blu-ray and DVD on April 28th.