Karel Reisz”s 1974 drama “The Gambler,” an autobiographical drama by James Toback, is a slow burn portrait of addiction. Every little bit literature professor Axel Freed (James Caan) makes on the Blackjack table, he sinks a few steps lower until he drowns in his melancholy reality. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” director Rupert Wyatt”s remake, swinging into the Oscar race at the tail end of the year, has a bit more bounce, channeling the Scorsese crime drama spirit with Mark Wahlberg as its troubled keystone. A totally different movie – and an intriguing departure (with plenty of cussin” so you know it means business).
The red-band trailer is murky the film”s connections to the original. Axel is now Jim Bennett, Los Angeles swaps in for New York, he still has a mom (Jessica Lange), but maybe John Goodman, lighting the screen on fire as a mob-ish boss, the one one loaning out money this time? Why is a mystery. Gambling is a good bet. “A wiseman”s life is based around fuck you,” Goodman”s Frank tells Wahlberg. “If I give you this money and you don”t pay me back, there are no rules.” Brie Larson and Michael Kenneth Williams round out the cast.
The spindly dialogue comes courtesy of William Monahan, Oscar-winner for 2006″s “The Departed.” This remake has sharp teeth, but will it cut through the swell of competition arriving in the next two months? “The Gambler” is set to premiere on Nov. 10 at the AFI Festival, where critical reception will start buzzing. In his write-up of that announcement, Kris speculated that Goodman might be the guy who walks away triumphant from “The Gambler” with a Supporting Actor nomination within reach. Wahlberg will have a tough time breaking into the Best Actor category based on the other talent involved. But if you want to put money on him….
”The Gambler” will arrive in limited release on Dec. 19, before going wide on Jan. 1, 2015.