Before Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio re-teamed on The Wolf of Wall Street, they considered working together on The Gambler, a loose remake of the 1974 film – written by Marty and Leo’s Oscar-winning The Departed scribe, William Monahan – but that version of the project ended up not happening. Going by the footage in a newly-released red band trailer for the film that did get made (watch it above), it’s easy to see how this grisly-looking tale of crime and violence would have attracted interest from the Scorsese/DiCaprio power duo.
The Gambler stars Mark Wahlberg, who dropped a lot of weight (after bulking up for Pain & Gain and keeping the muscles for Transformers: Age of Extinction) to play a literature professor whose gambling habit (or, rather, problem) lands him in hot water with gangsters. Emphasis on “gangsters” at that, given the sheer number of different low-life types who appear all too eager to rough up Wahlberg’s character in the red band footage alone.
Rounding out the film’s main cast are John Goodman as a criminal top-dog named Frank – who offers Jim Bennett (Wahlberg) some profanity-laced words of wisdom in the new Gambler trailer – along with American Horror Story star Jessica Lange playing Jim’s mother, Roberta, and Brie Larson (21 Jump Street, The Spectacular Now) in the role of Jim’s girlfriend, Amy Phillips. The Gambler was directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) from Monahan’s screenplay, and you can check out the film’s poster, below (click the image for the full-size version).
Wyatt’s version of The Gambler looks as though it may be a very hard-hitting take on the American crime/drama genre (topped off with some strong performances), in addition to being a brutal examination of the destructiveness of addictive behavior as examined through the lens of a very masculine narrative. It’s no surprise, then, that Paramount Pictures decided not too long ago to give the film a limited run in late 2014, so that it qualifies for consideration in this year’s awards season race.
As such, The Gambler will be initially hitting the scene around the same time as other movies – like Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (starring Bradley Cooper) or Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken (starring Jack O’Connell) – that are in a position to make a strong impression, both in terms of their artistic value and Oscar prospects. Of course it’s the filmgoing public that ultimately wins, since it means we get more ambitious and high-qualities choices to select from – and The Gambler is one that many will no doubt find enticing.
The Gambler begins an Oscar-qualifying limited theatrical release on December 19th, 2014; it goes wide in January 2015.