The Gambler Preview

Director: Rupert Wyatt
Screenwriter: William Monahan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman and Brie Larson
Release Date: 25th December 2014

Hollywood movies have long been obsessed with the charged and risky atmosphere of the casino. Even with the rise of online gambling, with many now making their high-stake plays from the privacy of their own homes, Hollywood still cannot get enough of the duality of sin and luxury offered by the casino setting. Therefore, in honour of Hollywood’s continued affair with glittering chandeliers, seedy dealings and shuffling cards, we’ve taken a look at the star-studded remake of The Gambler.

The original movie, released in 1974, was an equally slick and melancholic drama which, although later gaining cult-status, found little appreciation upon its original release. The Gambler was directed by Karel Reisz, who is best known for directing Meryl Streep’s Oscar-nominated performance in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and written by James Toback, who based the narrative loosely off his own experiences. The film focuses on Harvard-educated professor Axel Freed, who is both an inspiration to his students and beloved by his family and friends. However, Axel – played with the perfect mixture of charisma and pathos by James Caan – has a secret; a potent gambling addiction that is quickly spiralling out of control.

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A roundtable chat with producers Irwin and David Winkler of “The Mechanic”

Irwin and David WinklerHealthy father and son relationships are certainly more the exception than the rule at the movies. Even so, the murderous biological and surrogate father and son pairings in the original film “The Mechanic” and its action-packed update with Jason Statham and Ben Foster, are unusually problematic. It’s a tale, after all, about a junior hit-man learning from an older paid killer who has, in turn, killed the younger killer’s dad.

That, of course has pretty much nothing to do with two of the new version’s real-life father and son producers, Irwin and David Winkler. For the remake of the 1971 actioner, the pair have teamed up with another parent-and-offspring team, Irwin Winkler’s long-time producing partner, Bill Chartoff and his son, Robert. (For the record, there are a total of ten producers and five executive producers credited on the film.) Both individually and with Bill Chartoff, the elder Winkler has been involved with a remarkable number of good movies and a few genuine classics, starting with Sydney Pollack’s pitch-black Oscar winner, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and also including two of Martin Scorsese‘s signature works, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Winkler and Chartoff also, of course, produced “The Mechanic,” the first time around when it was as much of a chilling look at sociopathy as it was an action flick.

Like any great producer, Irwin Winkler has had his share of interesting financial failures.  There was the ultra-culty early John Boorman film, “Leo the Last” and Martin Scorsese’s big budget 1977 disappointment “New York, New York.” Fortunately, there was also the occasional modest but high quality success like Bertrand Tavernier’s great 1986 love letter to jazz and jazz fandom, “‘Round Midnight.” He and Bill Chartoff were also key players in one of the most enduring franchises in film history, the one that started with a low-budget boxing drama called “Rocky.” Since 1991’s “Guilty by Suspicion,” Winkler has also occasionally directed. His most recent films include the musical Cole Porter biopic, “De-Lovely,” and the Iraq war drama “Home of the Brave,” which received a speedy burial.

For his part, son David Winkler has worked on a number of television movies as well as with his father on 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” He also directed the 1998 drama, “Finding Graceland” starring Harvey Keitel.

I was personally anxious to talk to Winklers during a recent L.A. press junket for “The Mechanic” because of an oddball “only in L.A.” family anecdote. I was nevertheless beaten to the punch by an Italian reporter with a rather distinctive interviewing style who tended to dominate the discussion.

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