AFI Fest is debuting some of the last Oscar hopefuls of the season, with “A Most Violent Year” already picking up critical support and “Selma” and the not-so-secret screening of “American Sniper” just around the corner. But Warner Bros. had another film on their slate next to “American Sniper”: Rupert Wyatt’s remake of the 1974 crime drama “The Gambler.” There was some debate about whether the film was an awards player or a commercial movie, but early reviews have broken, and the answer seems to be firmly “commercial.”
Early reviews for the film are mixed, with most critics saying that the film comes off as a bit too slick and glibly cynical to leave a lasting impression while others note that it seems like it was cut down from a much longer version. Performance-wise, John Goodman’s work as a philosophical criminal has made the biggest impression, but critics have complained that Brie Larson is given a thankless love interest. Views on Mark Wahlberg’s central performance are mixed, with some praising his work as charming while others arguing he’s ill-suited to play a largely internal neo-noir character. Whatever the case, even the film’s supporters would be hard-pressed to say that he rivals James Caan’s original performance, or that this version stands up to the original.
“The Gambler” opens in theaters December 19.
Justin Chang, Variety
There’s enough swaggering cynicism for three pictures but barely enough soul to sustain even one in Rupert Wyatt’s “The Gambler,” a stylish, energetic but disappointingly glib remake of Karel Reisz’s still-potent 1974 drama of the same title…But it’s that surfeit of macho attitude in William Monahan’s script that keeps Wahlberg from coming anywhere near James Caan’s sly brilliance in the earlier film, making this a movie of slick, surface-level pleasures that’s unpersuasive at its core. Read more.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
A cover version is pretty much what this do-over of “The Gambler” represents, with the rougher edges mixed out and sweetened. It’s no mystery why actors and directors want to relive the magic of American studio movies from the fabled 1970s, but if you’re not going to take the risks that the originals did, or illuminate as much about the characters, why redo them at all? Read more.
Tim Grierson, ScreenDaily
To be sure, “The Gambler” follows its own rhythm, sometimes delightfully, but one can’t shake the feeling that producer and star Mark Wahlberg simply isn’t the right man to portray such a weary neo-noir figure, failing to plumb the depths necessary to give this meandering film its magnetic centre. Read more.
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
In nearly every scene, Wahlberg carries off the central role with what could be called determined elan. Bluntly, sometimes viciously frank, Jim spares no one in his circle, beginning with himself, and his uncensored talk with his chosen students stands in sharp contrast with his limited ability to communicate clearly with his grandfather and mother…All the same, Jim remains to some extent an unreachable character, someone you pity or shake your head over rather than empathize with. Read more.
Michael Nordine, Indiewire
The literary, allusion-heavy passages he and several others sprinkle into conversation are courtesy of “The Departed” scribe William Monahan, whose work here is as smart and punchy as we’ve come to expect — sometimes self-consciously so. Read more.
Charlie Schmidlin, The Playlist
The most disappointing aspect of the remake by Paramount now then is just how contemporary and neutered it feels. Relocated to Los Angeles, the film joins the trend of stylistic period choices as shorthand…But a genre exercise such as this needs invention, and while Wyatt trots out a slick stamp on proceedings with a game cast, his version never works up steam enough to render the effort worthwhile. Read more.
It’s dispiriting to watch an actress as smart and talented as Brie Larson play a love interest as thankless as her part in THE GAMBLER
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) November 11, 2014
Sadly, The #Gambler does not feature any Kenny Rogers needle drops. Also, it feels like it has been edited down from an 8-hour miniseries.
— Todd VanDerSmurf (@tvoti) November 11, 2014