IN THE GAMBLER, Mark Wahlberg plays a rogue professor who's a dick to everyone, deliberately gambles away small fortunes of his family's money, exploits minorities, abuses his position of authority to bang his hottest student (Brie Larson), and worst of all, doesn't even seem to be enjoying himself.
Wahlberg's Jim Bennett is basically Bad Professor (à la a bad lieutenant or a bad Santa), but instead of swearing and swagger, we get dilettantish navel gazing and boo-hoo freshman-year philosophy sermons. You get the feeling Bennett is the filmmakers' idea of a romantic—an uncompromising, dangerous type—but he's never actually in real danger and comes off like a pissy child who's only breaking plates so his mommy will pay attention. And the plates don't matter because they're rich!
At the very least, The Gambler made me glad it's not the '70s anymore. The original film, based on a supposedly semi-autobiographical screenplay by epic blowhard James Toback, came out in 1974—a time when readers and audiences were expected to care about every sullen protagonist with a boner, so long as he could string together a few polysyllabic phrases about his own disaffection. Waaah, money's just a collective illusion, waaah, I'm too important to settle for an average life. I guess there was a time when that kind of affected nihilism seemed revolutionary (mostly to Boomers), but nowadays we just recognize it as coddled.