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Gambler, The (DVD)
James Caan portrays a compulsive gambler who can't quit or win. He falls into debt to the mob for $40,000 but seems to relish the thrill of gamb ling against the long shot. As a professor of literature at a New York U niversity, 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. Caan and girlfriend Lauren Hutton are a sexy duo, and Caan aptly plays the risk-taker as a man with no future.]]>
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James can plays a college professor who is a chronic gambler. He gambles and gambles and gambles to the point where even his acquaintances in the life begin to question him. Even when bailed out by his Mother Caan still gambles the money that she gave to him! To me it makes no sense but to anyone who has been a gambler they can understand the plight that this character goes through. It's very sad and as Caan's character goes into the depths he is forced to solicit a basketball player's assistance in point shaving. this saves Caan's character but despite this "second chance" he ends up back where he started when he puts himself and his reputation on the line. The ending of the movie is a bit far-fetched but it matches the tone of his character, a man who has no self control over his actions, a man who lives a double life but in that second life cannot control himself.
I highly recommend this film. I give it Four Stars. I'm the 176th person to review the 1974 original film. I will also review the 2014 version. Buy this and you won't be disappointed.
A. Nathaniel Wallace, Jr.
Sam Goldwyn once said that it is the last five minutes of a movie that makes it memorable. The air of anticipation and sense of dread that runs through the 1974 version gives way to a finale that is impossible to forget.
James Caan, in a performance that at first seems wooden but turns out to be just about perfect, plays Axel Freed, a college professor with an addiction to gambling. Gambling rules Axel's life to the point where it undermines his loyalty to his family, his girlfriend and ultimately himself. Although he is absorbed with gambling, he comes from a privileged background.
This back-story gives "The Gambler" an unusual edge. His mother is a leading surgeon at a large city hospital and his grandfather, who he reveres, is a wealthy Jewish immigrant who has made good on the American Dream.
Axel is also seriously in debt and it is a condition that does not change much throughout the movie. Unfortunately he is in debt to people who do not forgive non-payment.
After borrowing money from his mother to pay off the debt, he takes his girlfriend to Las Vegas and gambles it instead. It is as though he is forcing the odds to the point where he will be destroyed. His girlfriend, Billie, played by Lauren Hutton, who is attracted to Axel’s sense of danger, finds him even too reckless for her.
To save himself, Axel is forced to morally descend to the lowest point in his life.
Finally, he receives the horrible punishment he seems to seek by pushing his luck in the wrong end of town. The film ends with a cinematic image not easily erased from the memory.
The screenplay by James Toback was largely autobiographical. He must have been seeking catharsis through the painful self-revelations in this story, which if it makes any point it is that the ultimate objective of the chronic gambler is to lose.
Karel Reisz directed the film in a dispassionate manner that adds to its power. This is a film with little sympathy or compromise. It is difficult for the audience to like Axel. He seems alienated from the normal joys of life. The only way he can lift his emotional level is to walk along the edge of the precipice.
An unusual background score helps give the film its all-pervading mood. Based on Mahler's Symphony #1, "The Titan", the score was arranged by Jerry Fielding, a fine composer in his own right. Despite its classical origins, Mahler's work in this film sounds ominous and surprisingly contemporary.
It's only when it's over that you realise how remarkable “The Gambler” really is – without a doubt, one of the most arresting films of the 1970's.