Review: The Gambler

The Gambler is a neo noir film from last year and I was finally able to see it on Blu-Ray.  The reviews are a mixed bag for this film.  I got to say I really enjoyed it.  I loved the noirish cinematography, the story and the performances. Reading some of the headlines for the negative reviews for this film, mention how it don’t stand up to the original.  I’m the first to jump on the” re-make is unnecessary” camp and understand where these people are coming from.  I, unfortunately have never seen the original(though I hope to someday) so I went into this film with no preconceived idea of what to expect.  Maybe this is why I enjoyed it so much.

This film is based on the original screenplay by James Toback and tweaked for a new generation by William Monahan who has done some great neo-noir and crime films.  The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt.

This film stars Mark Wahlberg as our anti-hero main character.   He is a writer and a professor, but that is second to being a gambler.  We also have Jessica Lange as his mother.  Brie Larson as his brilliant student and his romantic interest as well as perhaps his saver.  We have Michael Kenneth Williams and John Goodman as opposing gangsters. We also have Williams’ co-star from The Wire,Domenick Lombardozzi, showing up as Goodman’s top henchman.

Our story starts with Wahlberg gambling in a Korean gambling den.  He is playing blackjack and doing very well at first, he then loses.  The Korean’s want their money, Williams offers Wahlberg $50,000 to try to get even, he doesn’t.  He then goes to Goodman for a loan.  Goodman reminds him that Williams will kill him if he doesn’t pay back his debt.  We then find Wahlberg at his day job as a professor.  We take off from there as he juggles his debt, his family, and his class of students.

I really liked the neo noir filming style in this film.  One of the things you will notice while watching this is each person our protagonist owes money has their own color,the Korean’s color is green, Michael Kenneth Williams’ gang has the color black and John Goodman’s color is red. I first picked upon this in the scene where Wahlberg is waiting to be picked up by Lombardozzi.  I noticed all the cars are white, grey and black in a wash of Land Rovers and BMW’s we see Lombardozzi pull up in a bright red Porsche Cayenne.  There are a lot of beautiful noir like scenes in this from the smokey gambling halls, to a grayed out class room, to the neon lights of a casino.  I also loved the soundtrack for this film and how it was used.  Also pay attention to Wahlberg’s suit throughout the film and how it changes.

Like I said, I really liked this film, but I have not seen the original.  I think if you go into this with fresh eyes and do not compare it to the original you may enjoy it too.  I would love to hear from those lucky enough to see both of these films and what your thought on both are.

Favorite tidbit: Mark Wahlberg dropped 61lbs for his role going from 198lbs to 137lbs, to show the characters lack of caring about his health and well-being.

Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl


Night Film is a book that falls into a bunch of different categories, some may call it a horror book, some a mystery book others may put it on their contemporary fiction  or literature shelf.  I think because of all these elements it makes for a great noir read.  I’ll tell you right now, this is one of my favorite books.  It’s a very unique book with an interactive internet element, I read it as a straight novel and didn’t check out any of the extras on the web. I may re-read this and check out the web extra as I go.

This book’s main character is Scott McGrath, an investigative journalist that has his career ruined by a mysterious director by the name of Stanislas Cordova.  When a new investigation starts involving Cordova, Scott has to find out what is going on, no matter what the consequences.  Cordova is the interesting character that drives the plot, we just get snippets of him as the story progresses and we as readers and our hero Scott has to find what is real and what is legend or myth.  Cordova is a fictional character that seems real and real interesting.  Cordova is part Stanley Kubrick, half Roman Polanski, a bit of David Lynch and maybe a dash of Alfred Hitchcock thrown in for good measure.

Here is a great trailer for the book, and it definitely gives you a feel for what you’re in for:

This isn’t a short book at over 600 pages it takes a bit of time and effort to read, but it’s worth every minute and every page.  When you get done you are wowed and wish it had another 100 to 200 pages.  The writing is great and keeps you up late at night reading “just one more chapter.”  Let’s face it this hits all my hotspots, it’s a great written book, it’s dark and it’s about movies to boot.

I would love to see this turned into a mini series for HBO, Showtime or even an FX or AMC.  I think this would be the best way to give credit to the lengthy story.  Marisha Pessl has a movie deal already for this book and Rupert Wyatt is set to direct.  Let’s hope this is as good as this book deserves and I will be at the theater opening night when it comes out!