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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Gambler
The Gambler
Wellspring // R // March 26, 2002
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted April 8, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Straight literary adaptations sometimes feel dry and uninteresting, like the filmmaker just set out to recreate what someone else did better. Karoly Makk's The Gambler takes a different tactic that, while flawed, produces some interesting results. Taking Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The Gambler" as its inspiration, Makk's film tries to imagine the circumstances surrounding Dostoyevsky's writing of that book at a time when he was experiencing one financial crisis after another. The film pairs Dostoyevsky (Michael Gambon) and Anna (Jodhi May), a stenographer, who helps commit his novel to paper when he finds himself under a very tight and important deadline. The film jumps back and forth between Dostoyevsky's struggle to complete his work in time to avoid losing all future creative freedom and a dramatization of the story that he's creating.

For the most part The Gambler feels disjointed and a little sloppy. Some scenes have the jumpy, confusing feel of a film that had a very short shooting schedule. There are some fine performances, particularly Gambon and, in a small role, 30's film star Luise Rainer, but overall the film doesn't really gel the different styles that it seeks to combine. Some creative decisions backfire and add to the confusion: All characters, regardless of nationality, have British accents, making it tough to remember who's supposed to be French, Russian, etc... But overall, fans of reconfigurations of classic literature may find The Gambler rewarding.

VIDEO:
The full-frame video is a bit grainy and dirty. The image isn't particularly sharp.

AUDIO:
The 2.0 audio is fine, if a bit weak and uneven. English subtitles are included.

EXTRAS:
Filmographies are included.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
The Gambler tries to draw some comparisons between Dostoyevsky's roulette playing characters and his own creatively risky lifestyle. But in dramatizing his writing process it may indeed have gotten away from reality a bit. Like Kenny Rogers sang in his own "The Gambler," "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run."

Email Gil Jawetz at buskerdog@yahoo.com

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