Drama: Starring Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Michael K Williams, George Kennedy, Jessica Lange. Directed by Rupert Wyatt. Cert 15A
here may have been good reasons to remake the 1974 film starring James Caan as a literature professor with a crippling, self-destructive gambling addiction, but whatever noble intentions may have been there at the birth of this project certainly haven’t made it to the screen.
The original had a gritty, downbeat whiff of sleaze and corruption about it, but substituting 1970s New York for present day Los Angeles removes that element at a stroke while, for all his undoubted charisma given the right roles, Mark Wahlberg simply doesn’t convince as an expert in English literature, never mind one who’s more than $250,000 in hock to various gangsters.
That said, there are some bright spots here, most notably among the supporting players, with Michael K Williams and John Goodman excellent as the gangsters Wahlberg owes and Jessica Lange giving a brief but dazzling cameo as his wealthy and exasperated mother.
Heavy-handed musical clues don’t help matters, and it’s rather odd that director Rupert Wyatt got more nuanced performances from the chimps in Rise of the Planet of the Apes than he does from his leading man here.