Synopsis by Mark Deming
James Toback made his screenwriting debut with this taut drama, loosely adapted from the story by Dostoevsky. Axel Freed (James Caan) is an intelligent and well-respected professor of literature at a noted New York university, who uses great writing as a springboard for examining moral and philosophical issues in his class. But when he's not in front of the chalkboard, Axel has a serious problem -- he's hopelessly addicted to gambling. Axel will bet on almost anything, and while he lives for the heady rush of winning, it doesn't happen all that often, and Axel's latest losing streak has put him in debt to his bookies to the tune of $44,000, more than a college professor could hope to pay in 1974. Even after tapping his mother (Jacqueline Brookes), his grandfather (Morris Carnovsky), and his girlfriend (Lauren Hutton) for cash, Axel still owes thousands to his bookie Hips (Paul Sorvino), who is quickly losing his patience with Axel, especially when he learns after he finally scored a major winning streak, rather than paying off his bills he used the money to keep gambling ... and lost it all, leading to visits from an increasingly threatening series of underworld "collectors." The Gambler also features supporting performances from Burt Young, James Woods, and M. Emmett Walsh.
addiction, bookie, credit, gambling, gangster, physical-abuse, professor, prostitute/prostitution, wager