14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
On the edge,
This review is from: The Gambler (DVD)
One of the most uncompromising American dramas of the 70s, this takes a penetrating look at the addictive mindset of the gambler as no film did before that and none since as well. The writing by James Toback is superb and the direction by Karel Reisz is just as good. James Caan, in one of his best roles, plays a professor of literature--an ivory tower guy who drives himself right to the edge. The story implies that the possible reason for this is his patrician upbringing; his mother's a successful and respected physician and his uncle, an extremely successful businessman. And Axel Freed--Caan's character--needs much more than all the myriad assumptions that a blue-blooded background provides.
Even his girlfriend, Mickey (broadly played by Lauren Hutton), is upscale. Caan deftly and convincingly portrays someone who takes advantage of his class and its privileges and at the same time obsessively needs the "juice" of danger. The ending is a strong finish to a great movie; Axel tests the waters of what could very likely bring the ultimate danger. The real question is, Does he want that or not?
It's interesting to see both James Woods and M. Emmett Walsh in small and early roles here, as well as some 70s stalwarts: Paul Sorvino, Vic Tayback, and Steven Keats. The mix of the highbrow and the street is a great one. All actors do a terrific job.