Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Gambler (1974)

Director: Karel Reisz

Writer: James Toback

Composer: Jerry Fielding

Starring: James Caan, Paul Sorvino, Lauren Hutton, Morris Carnovsky, Jacqueline Brookes, Burt Young, Carmine Caridi, Vic Tayback, Steven Keats, London Lee, M. Emmet Walsh, James Woods, Carl W. Crudup, Allan Rich, Stuart Margolin, Antonio Fargas

More info: IMDb

Tagline: For $10,000 they break your arms. For $20,000 they break your legs. Axel Freed owes $44,000.

Plot: James Caan portrays a compulsive gambler who can't quit or win. He falls into debt to the mob for $44,000 but seems to relish the thrill of gambling against the long shot. As a professor of literature at a New York University, he is in over his head, until his mother gives him some money which he quickly tries to increase in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the odd s never allow him to win or fully recover, so his future is in the mob's hands.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

This one's been on my radar for a very long time but it also looked like it was a depressing picture.  It is a depressing picture but it's beautifully made.  The cast is superb.  Every actor, regardless of the size of the role, brings it.  Paul Sorvino is amazing how his smile can light up a joint and then that disappears when he's dons a scowl that will shake you with fear.  Caan is magnificent.  He sells driven hopelessness.   There are a few moments of harsh tension.  You don't know how it's going to go for Axel (Caan).  Will he win or lose big.  The Vegas sequence had me on edge as did the basketball game near the end.  That was tense.  Jerry Fielding's sparse score is hypnotic and it shares heavily in bringing us down with Axel.  Great stuff.  The supporting cast is a who's who of great character actors and the surprises keep coming all the way till the end of the picture.  This is one hell of a rollercoaster ride with high peaks and subterranean valleys.  This is one picture worth taking a chance on.  I'm only sorry I waited 20 years to do it. 

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