The Gambler ★★½

I watched the two versions of this film back to back, and I must say that a viewing of the original only enhanced my appreciation of the boldness of the 2014 remake. At the outset, I think the earnest addiction tragedy has been done more effectively (e.g., Leaving Las Vegas (1995), Shame (2011)). When compared to original director-for-hire Karel Reisz's service to James Toback's self-important script, director Rupert Wyatt takes this poor-white-male-trust-fund-baby-addicted-to-gambling tale less seriously, with far more self-awareness and with a broader and more mischievous play upon the underlying themes. (In particular, I respect how Wyatt deliberately rejects the characteristically dour New Hollywood ending, although how successful Wyatt's ending is on its own terms is another matter.) Also, quite surprisingly, I found James Caan (complete with shirt unbuttoned to strategically expose chest hair) to be no more believable as a writer/professor than Mark Walhberg, and I prefer the classroom monologue he gives in the remake by a long shot. Finally, by my math, (Jessica Lange + Brie Larson) > (Jacqueline Brooks + Lauren Hutton).