Casino films have long been a successful stalwart of the silver screen. When The Cincinnati Kid hit the cinema in 1965 with the iconic Steve McQueen playing the lead role, moviemakers knew they were on to a winner, and it seemed that glamorizing the thrill of high stakes gaming was a fail-proof formula for Hollywood films.

Yet over the last 5 years, many of the casino-based films that have been produced have been notable flops, and their large budgets have seen little return. The recent Jason Statham film, Wild Card (2015), is one example: it cost a whopping $30 million to make and took a meager $3,000 at the Box Office in the United States. While not all have failed so dramatically as Wild Card, few have prospered, with the exception of occasional films such as the Ocean’s Eleven series, which are not focused on casinos but use them as a setting.


The Gambler Film ReviewRunner Runner (2013), which starred Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, also garnered dismal reviews as well as dire box office takings. The indie film Poker Movie, which featured a psychopathic killer and a number of poker-playing police officers, failed to even make the cinemas regardless of its stellar cast. But arguably the most disappointing was The Gambler, Rupert Wyatt’s remake of the 1974 classic that originally starred James Caan and was loosely based off a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Released in 2014 right before the holidays, The Gambler does have some redeeming value: Mark Wahlberg does a sterling job as the troubled English professor Jim Bennett. Many have said for years that Wahlberg is often typecast, and that he lacks a certain polished acting prowess needed for the more serious roles. This is a truly flawed perception of Wahlberg’s acting credibility.

Yet it’s the surrounding cast that struggles to live up to Wahlberg’s commanding performance. This, combined with a lack of realism and an inability to command the attention of viewers, led The Gambler to be a box office flop. According to Box Office Mojo, it struggled to garner a return on the $25 million it took to make the film. The Gambler made an estimated $14 million profit in the end, but it had had been projected to recoup its budget in the first week of release.

With such damning statistics, is there still any life remaining in the casino genre, and why is there such dissonance when poker is still one of the most popular spots in the world? The Poker Player’s Alliance reports that the United States alone has 40 million active poker players, and as reported by The Telegraph, online casino sites such as Betfair posted record profits in 2014 because of the popularity of online gaming.

Yet not since Oceans 13 has a film in this specific genre posted sizeable Box Office takings, and with indie films like Rounders seemingly a thing of the past, there seems to be a lot of unanswered questions as to why the bottom seems to have gone out of casino films.


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