I genuinely didn't expect to be impressed by the remake of The Gambler. Even seeing that original screenwriter James Toback's name was listed as an executive producer, I just didn't figure that it could possibly be any good. Among other things, Mark Whalberg > James Caan, by a long shot, y'know? I have no real fondness for the guy, though I grant that he's not without talent. Plus, holy cow, the original version of The Gambler is one of the grimmest, darkest portaits of self-destructive human psychology ever committed to film; it could only have arisen in American cinema in the context of the gritty 1970's. I mean, no film made now would be brave enough to end with an image of the hero, having succeeded in getting himself slashed across the face with a razor, proudly, narcissistically examining the wound in a mirror, like he's accomplished something. And without that sort of courage, to make your protagonist into something so repellent, so grotesque, why even bother to remake the film at all?
Poor People," from the soundtrack to "O Lucky Man." That's some great repurposing. I have no way of knowing whether people who do not admire the previous film will like this movie - it's 46% rating on Rotten Tomatoes suggests not - but my curiosity was very pleasantly gratified... especially since I bought it on the cheap (you can find it on th 2/ $15 racks at London Drugs, and by the way, you don't actually need to buy two Blu-Rays to get the deal). I'm not saying it's a great movie, but it's wayyy better than I imagined it could be, and I think diehard fans of the original - or people who follow the cinema of James Toback - will appreciate it.