Jul 15, 2022

The Gambler (1974)

The Gambler is a 1974 American crime drama film written by James Toback and directed by Karel Reisz. It stars James Caan, Paul Sorvino and Lauren Hutton. Caan's performance was widely lauded and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Some see the film as a loose adaptation of the short 1866 novel The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Axel Freed is a literature professor. He has the gambling vice. When he has lost all of his money, he borrows from his girlfriend, then his mother, and finally some bad guys that chase him. Despite all of this, he cannot stop gambling.
Freddy and Krasnaya Movie Review

K: Fourth in line in our tribute to James Caan is The Gambler, a 1974 crime drama filmed by Karel Reisz. The screenplay for the film was written by James Toback. He wrote his own story, himself being an English lecturer with gambling problems. The goal of the authors of the film, it seems to me, was to show the true motivation of the main character (Axel Freed), the reasons for his self-destructive and insane behavior. It turned out to be a very realistic and simple film that has its own charm, style and atmosphere.

F: Hello Krasnaya. That's right, yesterday we followed Axel Freed and his roller-coaster lifestyle. Like you mentioned, this dude is a college English teacher who can conquer everyone with his Shakespearean words. Mafia mobsters just love his smart talk, and sometimes he can even make you believe that 2+2=5 and that he will get away with his 42.000 dollars in debt from gambling using just the power of his charm. He loses, he wins, he can't stop. He is definitely addicted to gambling. Or is it something else?

James Caan is really good here. From what I've read, he was also having a bit of an issue with his addiction to cocaine, so that might have helped the part. My favorite moment in the film is the  Dostoevsky lecture given by Axel. The film is looooosely based on Dostoevsky's short story "The Gambler", but the discussion on "2+2=5" and the concept of free will is based on Dostoevsky's "Notes from the Underground".

Burt Young GIF
I wanted to see more Carmine! (Burt Young).
K: In my opinion, this is one of the best roles by James Caan (from what I have already seen). He perfectly showed all the shades of feelings of a person suffering from addiction, which manifests itself in everything. He plays in the casino, bets on matches and even on his own street basketball skills. It is difficult for me, as a person who is completely non-gambling, to understand this endless desire to gamble on everything that is possible. I just wanted to shout out to Axel -  pay back those 45 thousand dollars that you managed to borrow and you will be happy! The only thing is, the ending was poor. The story just stopped - as if they ran out of film. That left me frustrated.

F: 😲You aren't completely non-gambling! Remember Luna?? Aahah. What are you talking about?

I liked the end of the movie with the pimp and the prostitute. It's very enigmatic and I was a little confused about why Axel decided to act like that. Did he want to hurt himself because of the cheating he did in that last basketball game that finally made him debt free? Was he feeling remorse for corrupting that young player and finally coming to terms with his addiction problem? Was it just a craving for adrenaline?

James Caan Gambler GIF
The highlight of the moive. Beautiful scene.
K: Overall, this was an entertaining and enlightening drama with some sad comedy moments. I definitely recommend it and also think that in addiction rehabilitation clinics, watching this movie would be a good idea.

F: It's worth a watch. Sorry, today I'm not very inspired to write this review. I think we need to take a pause from our weekly themes. Time for some TV series perhaps?

Pimp getting beaten GIF
Pimp Magic Hat😂
Freddy's Score: 59/100
Krasnaya's Score: 65/100





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