The Gambler

| January 8, 2016

They say the house always wins.  Vincentas (Vytoutus Kaniusonis) knows this firsthand as he’s managed to accumulate a hefty gambling debt at the race track.  Being beaten by debt collectors and constantly falling deeper and deeper into debt might be enough to motivate anyone to turn things around and realize that gambling is not a solution to the problem that gambling creates, but not Vincentas.  Instead, he sees an opportunity through his position as a paramedic to stop playing against the house and become the house.  Inspired, he starts a weekly betting pool among his fellow paramedics on which of their patients will be the first to die in a given week.  By running the game, and setting the odds himself, Vincentas finally finds a way to make the fates work in his favor while his friends get to have some fun and make some money.

It’s a really interesting premise for a film, and a different writer would have stuck with the premise and given the story a fairly conventional (though fun) structure to really explore the dynamics of a story like this.  Instead, the filmmakers here decided to create a more character-driven story that does not fit into a simple, conventional box.  The movie functions much more like real life, taking unexpected turns as characters gain interest in new developments like relationships and lose interest in old problems without straight-forward resolutions.  It’s an interesting way to tell a story, but there is a trade off in how compelling the story is when its focus is so inconsistent.  I wonder what the version of this with more of a focus on the gambling scheme would look like.

The acting is all strong though not many characters are developed other than Vincentas and his love interest (Oona Mekas) who is initially a throwaway character who finds Vincentas’s gambling on people’s lives disgusting, but grows to care for him after he saves her life after an accident on the job.  The film does so much to develop her character to the point where she starts to feel like the main character of the story, and the actress certainly rises to fill that role very capably.

In the end, The Gambler is an unexpected gem that will keep you guessing the whole way through.

Available now on DVD from Film Movement.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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