The Gambler

( 1 )

Overview

James Toback made his screenwriting debut with this taut drama, loosely adapted from the story by Dostoevsky. Axel Freed (James Caan) is an intelligent and well-respected professor of literature at a noted New York university, who uses great writing as a springboard for examining moral and philosophical issues in his class. But when he's not in front of the chalkboard, Axel has a serious problem -- he's hopelessly addicted to gambling. Axel will bet on almost anything, and while he lives for the heady rush of ...
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Overview

James Toback made his screenwriting debut with this taut drama, loosely adapted from the story by Dostoevsky. Axel Freed (James Caan) is an intelligent and well-respected professor of literature at a noted New York university, who uses great writing as a springboard for examining moral and philosophical issues in his class. But when he's not in front of the chalkboard, Axel has a serious problem -- he's hopelessly addicted to gambling. Axel will bet on almost anything, and while he lives for the heady rush of winning, it doesn't happen all that often, and Axel's latest losing streak has put him in debt to his bookies to the tune of $44,000, more than a college professor could hope to pay in 1974. Even after tapping his mother (Jacqueline Brookes), his grandfather (Morris Carnovsky), and his girlfriend (Lauren Hutton) for cash, Axel still owes thousands to his bookie Hips (Paul Sorvino), who is quickly losing his patience with Axel, especially when he learns after he finally scored a major winning streak, rather than paying off his bills he used the money to keep gambling ... and lost it all, leading to visits from an increasingly threatening series of underworld "collectors." The Gambler also features supporting performances from Burt Young, James Woods, and M. Emmett Walsh.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Costello
Screenwriter James Toback's adaptation of the classic Dostoevsky novella, directed by Karel Reisz, is excellent on the details of the life of a compulsive gambler, but never gets far beneath the surface and trails off disappointingly. Toback, who has discussed his gambling and substance abuse problems publicly, has an intimate understanding of this subject, and while he uses aspects of Dostoevsky's novella, it's clearly his own life, including the privileged background, from which he's drawn this script. Caan makes the film's literature professor seem a charismatic character at first, one able to translate the complexities of Dostoevsky into an idiom that can hold the attention of easily bored students, while effortlessly picking up beautiful women such as Lauren Hutton. But he's clearly restless and dissatisfied in this role, and as his dangerously high-stakes betting increases, the extent of his pathology becomes more obvious. His expensive habit has already alienated his wealthy family, and at this point, his closest relationships; the film's best and funniest scenes are with loan shark Burt Young and his hired muscle Paul Sorvino. Yet while the film conveys both the high, the illusory sense of omnipotence when one is winning, with the low, not only of loss but of looming death if one loses, it never convincingly connects Caan with his disease on a deeper level. The direction of the talented Reisz, who hadn't made a film in six years, seems uncertain at times. Caan, dead-on as the glib, self-deceiving professor, leads an excellent cast which also includes Morris Carnovsky, Jacqueline Brooks, James Woods, and M. Emmet Walsh.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/1/2013
  • UPC: 883929304080
  • Original Release: 1974
  • Source: Paramount Catalog
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 24,555

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Caan Alex Freed
Paul Sorvino Hips
Lauren Hutton Billie
Morris Carnovsky A.R. Lowenthal
Jacqueline Brookes Naomi Freed
Starletta DePaur Monique
Burt Young Carmine
Sully Boyar Uncle Hy
Alisha Fontaine Howie's Girl
Richard Foronjy Donny
Chick Hearn Radio Announcer
Ric Mancini Sal
Lucille Patton Ricky's Wife
Leon Pinkney Street Basketball Boy
Allan Rich Bernie
Gregory Rozakis Joe
Dick Schaap TV Announcer
Ray Serra Benny
Frank Sivero Donny's Driver
Philip Sterling Sidney
M. Emmet Walsh Las Vegas Gambler
Beatrice Winde Receptionist
Joseph Attles Singer in the Park
Ed Kovens Ricky
Frank Scioscia Man in Park with Donny
Carl Crudup Spencer
Louise Lasser
Carmine Caridi Jimmy
Stuart Margolin Cowboy
Antonio Fargas Pimp
Steven Keats Howie
James Woods Bank Officer
London Lee Monkey
Vic Tayback One
William Andrews Coach
Technical Credits
Karel Reisz Director
Robert Chartoff Producer
Jerry Fielding Score Composer
Victor J. Kemper Cinematographer
Dennis L. Maitland Sound/Sound Designer
Philip Rosenberg Production Designer
Roger Spottiswoode Editor
Edward Stewart Set Decoration/Design
James Toback Screenwriter
Doug Turner Sound/Sound Designer
Irwin Winkler Producer
Albert Wolsky Costumes/Costume Designer
Ted Zachary Asst. Director
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    THIS FILM HAD ONE OF THE BEST TAG LINES...

    ''For $10,000.00 they break your arms; For $20,000.00 they break your legs. Axel Freed owes $44,000.00'' That sets the pace of this well made look at self destruction. As degenerate gambler/college professor Axel Freed, James Caan gives the first of his handful of post-GODFATHER characters that leave an indullable mark. Laureen Hutton is more than window dressing, she actually acts and acts well. Good support from Paul Sorvino and Burt Young.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews