The Gambler


The only thing between your skull and a baseball bat is my word.

From The Gambler 1974

"For $10,000 they break your arms. For $20,000 they break your legs. Axel Freed owes $44,000." This was the tagline and movie quote used for the film The Gambler. Released in 1974, it starred James Caan as Axel Freed, Paul Sorvino as Hips, and Lauren Hutton as Billie. It was loosely based on the short novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which fittingly, was the same novel that the main character, Axel Freed, was teaching to his students in the film.

This drama directed by Karel Reisz attempted to depict the world of the compulsive gambler. Here, a gritty realism on the world of bookies, loan sharks, and their violent enforcers was presented. He depicted Freed as a cultured intellectual who, despite loving Billie truly, cannot resist the dangers of gambling. It showed the speed of his fall as his actions become increasingly frenetic due to his addiction to gambling.

The Gambler brilliantly captures the strangely powerful compulsion to gamble. The main character, Axel Freed, rode an emotional roller coaster between exhiliration and despair throughout the film. He was prepared to transcend truth to make his own rules.

Axel Freed, a New York City professor, was addicted to gambling. He racks up a $44,000 debt in just one night at a mob casino. But despite the obvious threat to his well-being, the question still remains: how can he pay his debts back?

His mother lent him money, hoping that the experience will put an end to his gambling. But this was not so, instead of using the money to pay his debts, he blows it on bad sporting bets. With no one else left to call on, Freed relied on one of his students, who may not be able to deliver at all. His downward climb forced him to be estranged from his loved ones.

In this film, Freed was not only a gambler, but THE GAMBLER. His refusal to quit is shown as a macho ability to withstand punishment. He is presented as a sort of martyr as he suffers at his own hands, and viewers relate to him with pity as he becomes a sacrifice to his own poor judgment.

Billie, his girlfriend, functioned as a reminder of his less sterling qualities, making him seem embittered. SHe does not understand Freed's behavior, but it was the part she had to play: she makes Freed out as a man who controls the ladies, but she is not so terrified that she cannot vocalize his mistakes. As Billie starts to shun Freed, she completes the circle drawn by the secondary characters, who were meant to stay around as long as the main character is not contradicted.

The film centers on the matter of will and its importance to the psychological make-up of the main character. Freed forces to leave his mark in a world that does not recognize his existence. He searches for something permanent in a world of ambiguity. He attempts to control his fate, his penchant for losing increasing his desire to gamble, mistakenly believing that winning enables him to gain a niche in life.

His main issue is to prove himself not only a component of the texas holdem gambling machine, but an icon. The obsessive behaviors of the characters are all vain attempts to impose order on chaos. As Freed clearly shows no signs of stopping his gambling, viewers see the sliding doors that separate one who stays safe and atrophies from the one who lives dangerously at the expense of his own life and others' lives.

It is in this sense that The Gambler fascinated viewers. It is left with the pretenses of one who suffers from a self-destructive behavior, making the overall story poignant. It also ensures that the main character gets sympathy from the viewers, despite the many wrong decisions he has made.

The film conveys the illusory sense of omnipotence when one is winning and the threat of impending death when one loses. It connected actor James Caan to his character's disease on a deeper level. The film was shot while Caan was battling is own addiction to cocaine.

The film was nominated for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama" - James Caan, in the 1974 Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It was released by Paramount Pictures and produced by Irwin Winkler. The screenplay was written by James Toback with music by Jerry Fielding and Gustav Mahler.

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