In Rupert Wyatt's drama, literary professor and novelist Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) repeatedly tells anyone who will listen that he is not, in fact, a gambler. That's a tough line to swallow from a guy we see wager and lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 over the course of the film.
Bennett is a depressed ne'er-do-well with daddy issues, whom we see at the start of this film grieving the loss of his grandfather (a cameo by veteran actor George Kennedy), "the 17th-richest man in California." Bennett has gambling debts, and his grandfather has left him out of the will.
A standard gambling addiction isn't Bennett's issue; he gambles only with the intention of losing, and sucking up the consequences that come along with it. But while you see this occurring, the film is too disjointed to successfully explain why. (Try to fill in the gaps in your head and you come up with a pretty entertaining picture.) So despite good performances from Wahlberg and underutilized stars like John Goodman and Jessica Lange, The Gambler fails to pay off.