The Gambler

Rated 3.0

Mark Wahlberg has the title role in this remake (it was James Caan in the 1970s original), and he’s an apt choice for the part, but this is not the kind of tale that has him waving big guns around, figuratively or literally. The new version’s screenplay by William Monahan (The Departed) seems hamstrung by the eccentricities that were crucial to the original (screenplay by maverick writer/director James Toback). The title character in both is James Bennett, an English prof who also has an elaborate and extremely reckless addiction to gambling. Toback’s quasi-autobiographical fascination with the existentialist “literature of extremes” leaves its mark on both films. The new version’s misfortunes reside partly in its failures with the gambling sequences, which are briskly staged and almost completely lacking in any real dramatic interest or credibility. The Wahlberg character’s classroom scenes, by contrast, come to life as a nutty sort of semi-fantastic dark comedy, while also throwing some moderately articulate light on his peculiar sense of personal mission. Cinemark 14. Rated R