The Gambler is one of the edgier and more interesting, if forgotten, films of the mid-1970s, the kind of studio film that rarely gets made anymore. Based on a screenplay by James Toback (Two Girls and a Guy) and directed by Karel Reisz, the film stars James Caan as a brilliant college literature professor with the same weakness as one of Dostoevsky's characters: He can't resist a wager. Indeed, he's in so deep that even his seemingly good-hearted bookie (Paul Sorvino) is trying to kill him. So he lams out of New York and heads for Las Vegas--where he wins back everything he's lost so he can pay off his massive debts. But is he smart enough to take his winnings and walk away? Caan captures the aggressive compulsiveness of the gambling addict, the strange split between a seemingly intelligent man and an uncontrollably stupid impulse. The film includes early film performances by James Woods and Lauren Hutton. --Marshall Fine
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