Have you ever walked out on a movie before? I’m not talking about excusing yourself to use the restroom or running to the lobby for a soda refill. I’m talking about getting up while the movie is still rolling, pre-end credits, and leaving. It’s the equivalent of giving up, of throwing your hands up in the air and admitting defeat. Movies are my life, my passion. It’s what I wake up thinking about, it’s what I go to sleep dreaming about. I pride myself in being able to sit through a film, even if it’s terrible (2014 had some serious stinkers), sticking through it until the bitter end. I was brutally reminded the other night of how frail the human condition actually is as I walked out of my first movie since, I don’t know, junior high school? Was it for Scary Movie 3? Probably. The movie I saw wasn’t necessarily a parody, but looking back on it the film certainly is a gross parody masquerading as a film. The movie I saw was The Gambler.
Yeah, get a good look at that poster up top. Look at Mark Whalberg’s long, frazzled hair. Looks like he’s been through a lot, eh? “The only way out is all in.” That tagline should pretty much tell you what you’re getting yourself into. A man on the edge, a man with nothing to lose, a man who is compared to the main character of Albert Camus’ The Stranger repeatedly. Whalberg plays an English professor who also happens to be a down-on-his-luck gambler who is in massive debt. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
“…the cinematography and editing are borderline atrocious”
I have no idea how to play cards, poker, or roulette. I know absolutely nothing about casinos. The Gambler may bore some viewers who are like me, since there is no exposition on how the games Mark participates in are played. Casino Royale tried to remedy this by explaining each move the players made via two onlooking characters, There’s no such luck here in The Gambler. Any sense of heightened suspense was completely lost. I realize this isn’t necessarily a slight against the movie; it’s my own fault for never learning to play these games. Regardless, I could care less since the cinematography and editing are borderline atrocious. Music can help enhance a scene but they way music is handled here does the exact opposite. The way a song drastically cuts out (is it trying to mimic an indie movie?) will tear you right out of the experience. It’s a lousy and clumsy move. And that goes for the majority of what I saw in this film. There are plenty of movies that may not excite me plot-wise, but if they look and sound pretty then I can settle for that. This is just drab.
Is Mark Whalberg known for ad libbing? There is a scene in The Gambler where Mahky Mahk is sitting in a bath tub watching one of his college students playing a basketball game when his mother (played by a very underutilized Jessica Lange) barges in, accusing him of making bets on the game. Walrus-burger begins a rant, in classic Whalbergian form, about how he would never do that. Remember how in Transformers 4 Mahk keeps reminding the audience that he’s an inventor? Imagine all that crammed into a thirty-second rant, ad infinitum. Yes, we get it, you would never do that. Yes, we get it the second time that you would never do that. For the fifth time We. Get It. There’s a scene in Birdman where Edward Norton’s character tells Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thomson that his lines keep repeating themselves. That the audience already understands what he’s saying through the first line of dialogue. Stop beating them over the head! That’s how this scene feels. It’s hard to tell whether this is Whalberg’s magic at play or actual lines of dialogue in the script. Either way it’s mind-numbing.
I don’t like giving up on movies but I just couldn’t do this one. I haven’t been this bored, this appalled, this angry at seeing a movie in ages. It’s very rare that this scenario happens. The warning signs were all there, it’s one of the first releases of January, the notorious dumping ground for the studios. I honestly can’t recommend this movie to anyone.