The Gambler: Mark Wahlberg Leaves Audience Dumbfounded and Depressed
Mark Wahlberg is Jim Bennett in this remake of the 1974 James Caan film The Gambler and as directed by Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) this version leaves the audience dumbfounded, depressed and not a little confused. Like the original film, Wahlberg’s gambler is a academic figure, a professor who teaches literature at an unidentified Los Angeles college. Jim Bennett is a published author who has given up writing to teach it, or rather to discourage others from participating as writers.
Despite the fact that this “based on a true story” movie did not do well at the box office, “Pain & Gain” show that Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson make a good team and the dark comedic film could have been called “Kidnapping Are Not Us.” Directed by Michael Bay, who obviously enjoyed working with Marky Mark so much that he brought him in to replace the disgraced Shia LaBeouf in “Transformers: Age of Extinction” this action and black comedy allows all the main players to impress.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shows that he can still do comedy, after this is the man who proved his comedic timing and ability in “The Rundown,” aka “Welcome to the Jungle.” His sensitive weight lifting body builder, who bonds with the kidnap victim too well, played by “Monk” star Tony Shalhoub, is funny without become a cartoon character, although it was close.
The story of three weight lifting wannabes who kidnap a wealthy client and torture him to sign over all his assets was not overly funny, especially to the real life victim played by Shalhoub. In the film, Marc Schiller (Shalhoub) is run over with a car twice after the inept athletes attempt to blow the businessman up in the same vehicle and fail.
“Pain & Gain” features the more charismatic Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson as two of the three criminals in this “Kidnapping Are Not Us” tale of dumb luck and dumb weight lifters who were destined to be caught from day one. One person who does not find the film or its version of events amusing is Marc Schiller. Presumably there were quite a number who did not find the film overly funny, but at least the estimated $26 million film made enough money world wide to classify as a success by Hollywood standards.
Ed Harris has a cameo as the cop turned private eye who helps Kershaw, Schiller in the film, track down his kidnappers who also attempted to kill him. Another cameo feature Peter Stormare as Dr, Bjornson and not one of the villains in a deviation from type for the actor.
This film has Michael Bay’s stamp all over it and it is this reason more than any other that the film is so entertaining. Combined with Dwayne Johnson’s humorous and simple villain and Mark Wahlberg’s egotistical and driven ring leader, “Pain & Gain” is not overly clever but it does tell the story, after a fashion, of the trio kidnapping a wealthy man and then trying to kill him after draining his money dry. These men are not “nice guys” as pointed out by Schiller who, unlike us the viewing audience, has first hand knowledge of what they are really like.
By Michael Smith
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