Note: This films release date is Dec. 19th, 2014; this review contains no spoilers
In case you didn’t garner this from the title of the film, “Jim Bennett” (Mark Wahlberg aka always Marky Mark to me) is a consummate, addicted high-stakes gambler..he is also a college literature professor with a tad bit of a problem. He has played a little too hard and fast with what I like to call OPM ~ Other People’s Money. Now he is in a pool of quicksand seemingly without a ladder.
First there “Neville” (Michael Kenneth Williams) with whom Bennett borrows from using himself & his own life as collateral as he pits creditor against creditor a few times over. The operator of the gambling ring is “Mister Lee” (Alvin Ing), to whom Bennett’s money is supposed to go to first and gives him 7 days to pay back 260K debt he has incurred with loss after loss at the blackjack & roulette tables. But as he layers his debts one on top of another, he starts to owe more than just one person who threatens to kill him if he doesn’t pay. He even borrows from his well-to-do mother, “Roberta” (Jessica Lange) though as he’s done this before more than once, it’s seemingly his last card to play until it’s not and despite all of this he just can’t stop. Even when his college-student girlfriend “Amy” (Brie Larson) walks out on him as he gambles his last chance away.
His last shot at redemption is to finally get to the lowest point in his life, as all addicts must, but being that Bennett is actually smarter than most, he develops a plan to get himself out of all of it, but to succeed he must first hit up the last person on earth with whom he can actually borrow from, “Frank” (John Goodman). What happens with all his plays to get out of his mess of a life is the jist of this whole story and what I forsaw as a predictable ending.. or was it?? I will leave that up to you to see as it can go many different ways.
The acting here is done well enough, though no real standouts except maybe Goodman who always does quite wonderfully making things a bit darkly funny while keeping true to the ‘bad guy’ portrait and a quick bit from Richard Shiff as the “Jeweler” which is also a bit comedic. (The great George Kennedy does a quick cameo if you can spot it!) Wahlberg dropped 60lbs in just a few months for this role and it’s very apparent how quickly he did this as not only is he the thinnest I’ve ever seen him, but even his lips have a sickly blue-ish, white pallor to them. His hair however..is great! 🙂
While this film isn’t great, it is entertaining enough. One of the things I simply loved about it is the filming of it in and all over Los Angeles..not just one simple area..but all over from K-town(Koreatown) to the beaches of the Palisades, USC to Casino Morongo and back on over to the legendary Playboy Mansion, which serves as home to Roberta. As I was honored to be sitting in a Q & A afterwards with the legendary producer, Irwin Winkler ~ think everything from’They Shoot Horses Don’t They’, to the ‘Rocky’ franchise (spoiler Mr. Winkler confirmed there will be a Rocky 6 upcoming), ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Raging Bull’, and the ‘The Mechanic’ to name just a few on his high-profile list of films, but who noted he has lived in Los Angeles for 50 years and there were neighborhoods he still hadn’t known about that they used. Mark Wahlberg insisted they keep the movie here though as Los Angeles really serves as it’s own character fabric of this film so much so. Also speaking was his son, David Winkler, no slouch in his credits either. I also didn’t know this is a remake of the 1974 version of the same name starring James Caan. The Winkler’s noted they had never liked the ending of that film and decided to remake it with a few changes to the storyline and ending.
So there you have it. It’s an entertaining enough of a watch but come contender time, I don’t see it being up there.
(See grading scale)