Mark Wahlberg (center) plays Jim Bennett in THE GAMBLER, from Paramount Pictures. (Photo credit: Claire Folger (c) 2014 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.)
Mark Wahlberg (center) plays Jim Bennett in “The Gambler,” from Paramount Pictures. (Source: Claire Folger Paramount Pictures 2014)

Normally, addiction is associated with concepts like drinking or gambling. After seeing “The Gambler,” I can attest that thoughts are addicting as well. The thought could be about falling in love, running away or hating yourself.

“The Gambler” presents this idea through its protagonist, Jim Bennett, a literature professor who digs himself into debt through gambling. His debts lead him to borrow money from a loan shark and his mother. Bennett slowly learns that putting himself in a dark place also puts his loved ones in a place they do not deserve to be in.

I give “The Gambler” a solid three and a half out of five stars. I was nervous going to the theater to see it, because a lot of people told me the storyline was awful and it simply wasn’t a good film.

Mark Wahlberg played Jim Bennett perfectly. As a literature professor wallowing in his own wretchedness, Wahlberg’s character was almost philosophical to me. At first, Bennett seems like a straight-up foul man, which he is, but as the film went on, it was almost sad to see his suffering.

With sprinkles of suicidal thoughts in Bennett’s life, no one seems to understand him. He puts himself into debt through gambling, but he only does this in order to punish himself. Once in debt of about $260,000 plus interest, Bennett only wants to be physically hurt without inflicting pain himself.

While Bennett is literally getting pounded with fists, he makes unusual connections with a couple of his students. I found these connections noble. His students don’t realize he defends them with all the strength he has.  He inspires them to be better people even though he doesn’t want to live anymore.

Most of these scenes dragged on and had a lot of unnecessary pauses and silence. I did not like the fact that I had no idea what Wahlberg’s character’s name was until 30 minutes into the movie.

However, I really appreciate that there was a lot of human connection between Bennett and his students, even though he tried to block everyone out of his life. This is shown through two students with whom Bennett formed a companionship. They seem to be the only two characters who refuse to look at his faults and bring out the best in him.

I must admit, I was shocked by a happy ending to the film. It was tremendously satisfying to see a high-spirited ending after nearly two hours of violence, vulgarity and getting to know the mind of a suicidal man.

I wouldn’t watch this as a first choice for a movie, but I loved the idea that “The Gambler” crafted. One theme in the film particularly stood out to me: Being addicted to something begins with being addicted to the way your mind is thinking. I take pleasure in one of the last scenes when Bennett discovers this idea, and admits he isn’t a gambler. Gambling was just his escape from his “nothing-to-live-for” way of thinking.

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