Caan's gambler (a fine performance) is a university lecturer who gets into hot water with the mobsters over his debts, and uses Dostoievsky to intellectualise his weakness into tragic compulsion. Predictably, his increasingly desperate measures are at the expense of those closest to him, and are accompanied by a deepening masochistic streak. In keeping with this definition of classic impulses, Reisz's direction is panoramic, with aspirations towards the epic, when it should have been closer in and faster. The result is a highly melodramatic and romantic film, for all the veneer of disillusion, whose weighty statement too often swamps the potentially strong suspense. The Gambler looks all the more old-fashioned for coming in the wake of Altman's systematic demythology of the subject in California Split; and
showed how his script might perhaps have been tackled when he came to make his own directing debut with Fingers.
Cast and crew
M Emmet Walsh