The Gambler - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Gambler Reviews

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½ August 10, 2016
James Caan as a compulsive gambler in this well acted and scripted character drama.
½ April 28, 2015
kinda 'bummer theater"
April 15, 2015
É estranho que James Caan inspire tantas vezes um sentimento de protecção, quando a sua figura transparece geralmente uma masculinidade de alguém capaz de tomar conta de si. Mas por várias vezes James Caan tem-nos preocupados com o que vai acontecer ao seu personagem, de uma maneira que não acontece com contemporâneos seus como Burt Reynolds ou Peter Fonda. "The Gambler" depende essencialmente da entrega de James Caan para nos deixar sensíveis (por vezes ao ponto da angústia) ao drama de um tipo que não consegue largar o vício do jogo. No modo como depende de Caan, "The Gambler" não é assim tão diferente de "Thief", que nos conquista não só por ser um excelente filme de acção, mas também porque sabe perfeitamente que fragilidades expor no seu principal personagem para que nos possamos identificar com ele (e com a sua vontade de completar o puzzle da alegria que guarda no bolso numa montagem de fotografias). É difícil virar as costas a James Caan.
December 28, 2014
Much criticism and disappointment has been expressed over the new remake of this movie that was released over Christmas. Having seen this version over the remake already in theaters, I understand where the disappointment is coming from. Why on earth would you even dare to remake a film as incredible as this? This original version with James Caan went largely ignored when released, but it stands to me as one of the greatest films to ever come out of the 70's. It has that gritty, NYC, 70's feel that made films like Mean Streets and Serpico so great. The performances are masterful. You can't go wrong with James Caan, or Paul Sorvino either. I HIGHLY recommend, you see this one first before you even think about seeing, what is probably, a useless remake of this classic.
½ December 27, 2014
It's main deficiency is the fact you don't care what happens to the main character.
½ December 26, 2014
½ December 24, 2014
Brilliant performance by Caan highlights an accurate portrait of the addicted gambler. The ending highlights the character of Caan, and may be unsatisfying for some. If you don't understand gamblers or they make you queezy you may want to stay away, otherwise sit back and enjoy. 7 of 10
½ December 20, 2014
A film that is driven and saved primarily by a fantastic performance from James Caan as a man who can't stop himself from destroying himself. It meanders a little too much to be something great, but the persistent rise and failure of Caan's character really drives home the point Reisz is trying to make.
November 14, 2014
Tense story about addiction. James Caan's character is more addicted to the consequences that come along with losing than he is winning. Great overlooked film.
September 1, 2014
A finely written and strongly executed drama on the allures and strange compulsions of gambling addiction.
July 12, 2014
An understated addiction drama. It's a lesser known movie from the '70's, yet it has all the element typical to the characters studies of the period.
January 3, 2014
One of Caan's best films. He is the balls in this. Good support from Paul Sorvino and the scene where he drags his mother around the banks is quiet heart breaking. The finale is immense and the tension is quiet unbearable. Another example of why 70's cinema is simply untouchable.
½ July 11, 2013
It may not quite be Dostoevsky (and really, it doesn't bear much resemblance to the novella on which it is very loosely based), but, after a slightly unfocused start, "The Gambler" gradually builds into something all its own--an effectively anxiety-ridden tragedy of addiction and wasted potential and a tremendous example of the sort of gritty, urban, frustrated male character studies for which the American cinema of the 1970s has become famous. Toback's wrenchingly autobiographical screenplay is directed with understated skill by Karel Reisz, who lets the claustrophobic framing and Mahler-inspired score slowly, almost subliminally seep in over the course of the film's running time until it reaches a kind of feverish (anti?)climax. It's interesting to imagine what someone like Scorsese, for whom the material would obviously have been perfect (and who has considered remaking it), would do with a script like this--where Scorsese would turn it into grand opera, Reisz instead refuses his audience such dramatic or aesthetic release, and instead opts for an unrelenting and unresolved slow-burn. Caan's performance has been pinpointed as one of the peaks of his career, and deservedly so--it's deeply felt and admirably restrained work, which, as with the rest of the film, never even approaches the over-the-top extremes that must have been so tempting.
June 25, 2013
Superb character drama typical of the 70's. James Caan proves yet again what a superb actor he is as the degenerate gambler college professor who keeps digging a bigger hole for himself
½ August 28, 2012
Unnerving drama about a gambler who's almost hell bent at self destruction. Every opportunity to get out of trouble is instead seen as a way to get in even more trouble. The film has a very matter-of-fact feel to it. Karel Reisz provides a steady hand, from James Toback's largely self-referenced script. Good performances, and an appropriately low-key film score by Jerry Fielding adapted from Mahler's Symphony No. 1.
October 7, 2011
My Favorite.
Nice Story.

Like this line:
"Once you ain't a virgin no more, you're a whore."
June 23, 2011
Yet another reason why the 70s will be remembered as the golden age of cinema, gut wrenching high tension masterpiece.
April 1, 2011
A frustrating look at a man hell bent on self destruction. The time past easily enough but it is a little cheesy and the ending was lacking in real climax.
March 5, 2011
Karel Reisz's The Gambler opens with a problem. Axel's incredulity that anyone could draw so many worthless poker hands uninterruptedly has led him irrevocably $44,000 into debt. He doesn't have it, but it's been a big-time game, and he must find it somewhere or be in profound trouble. The way Axel resolves his dilemma is only somewhat challenging. He sponges the money from his doctor mother.

However then it's time to contend with his real problem, some overpowering urge within him that won't let him repay the money. He needs to lose, to experience threat, to put himself in jeopardy. He needs to gamble away the five figures on even more unpromising bets because in a way it isn't gambling that's his fixation: It's peril itself, borne out of a neurotic will to force his own reality.

"I play in order to lose," he tells his bookie at one point. "That's what gets my juice going. If I only bet on the games I know, I could at least break even." But he doesn't want that. In one scene, he's taken to staking he doesn't have on college basketball games chosen virtually without discrimination from the sports pages.

And yet Axel Freed is not just a gambler, but a dreadfully complex man in his mid-thirties who earns his living as a university literature teacher. He teaches Dostoevsky, William Carlos Williams, Thoreau. But he doesn't give the impression he teaches their works so much as what he extracts from them to substantiate his own fixations. One of the students in his class has Axel worked out so totally that she always has the answer he's looking for, when he asks what a quote means. They're saying, as Axel interprets them, to take chances, to put the self in the line of fire.

The death of the romantic era of heroes seems to preoccupy him. Before modernism's misanthropic upshot, he could've put himself to the test more honestly. His grandfather came to America destitute, fought and killed to prove himself, and still is a man of mammoth vigor at the age of eighty. The old man is reputable now, but the tale of his formative years beguiles Axel, who declaims it lyrically at the eightieth birthday party.

Axel extracts nothing from 1974 to test himself against, though. He has to find his own hazards, to incite and tempt them. And the greatest danger in his life as a gambler is that behind his affable bookies and betting buddies is the pitiless company of the Mafia, the guys who take his bets like him, but if he doesn't pay, there's nothing they can do. "It's out of my hands," his crony Hips makes clear. "A bad gambling debt has got to be taken care of." And that adjoins an further aspect to this James Toback-scripted drama, shot at a time when lead James Caan was fighting his own cocaine addiction, which starts as a study of Axel Freed's personality, expands into the story of his world, and then pays off as a thriller. We become so very held by Axel's troubles and threats that they seem like our own. There's a scene where he sits in the bathtub and listens to the climactic minutes of a basketball game, and another scene where he sits in the bleachers and watches a fixed game while a pair of hired guns look on, and these scenes have a characteristic of tension that Reisz makes all the more genuine because he doesn't colonize the rest of his movie with stock characters.

Axel Freed, as played by Caan, is himself a wholly persuasive personality, and unique. He doesn't have roots in other gambling movies or even from other characters he's played. And the people around him also are individual, distinctive creations. His mother, Jacqueline Brooks, is an experienced, self-supporting person who gives him the money because she fears for his safety, and yet sees that his problem is deeper than gambling. His grandfather, excellently played by Morris Carnovsky, is capable of meaning by his manners why he intrigues Axel so. The assorted bookies and collectors he encounters aren't completely Mafia pigeonholes in the sense that they enforce more in grief than in anger. Only his girlfriend falls short of feeling very authentic. Here's still another display of the failure of contemporary movies to give us fully developed female characters under thirty.

There's a scene in this otherwise very powerful film that has James Caan on screen all by himself for two minutes, locked in a basement room, waiting to meet a Mafia boss who will possibly order his legs broken. In another movie, the scene could've felt too long, too eventless. But Reisz, Caan, and screenwriter James Toback have built the character and the movie so compellingly that the scene is not only effective, but effective two ways: first as tension, and then as character unraveling. As we look into Axel's imprisoned eyes we see a person who is terrified to death and yet obstinately prepared for this moment he has brought down upon himself.
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