In this 2014 film directed by Rupert Wyatt, Mark Wahlberg stars as Jim Bennet, who works as a professor of literature in Los Angeles.
Setting the Stage
Jim Bennet suffers from a serious addiction to gambling, which stems from his “all or nothing” view of life and the world – he needs to bet it all away so that he can start working on himself from the ground floor.
Only three of his students know about his secret – Amy (the romantic interest), Dexter (a Chekhovs Gun), and Lamar, a student who plans on becoming a player in the NBA. The romance sub-plot with Amy is a tad contrived, but the shoehorning is forgiven due to the industry’s sheer inability to film a movie that lacks such a sub-plot.
The plot starts when we find out that Jim simultaneously owes $240,000 to the head of an illegal gambling ring, and $50,000 to a specific loan shark. The head of the gambling ring, Lee, gives Jim an ultimatum – either pay off the $240,000 before a week passes, or die.
Note: These gambling rings do exist in real life, but are a ridiculous and needless risk for anyone to take, when you can just go to 888casino, an exceptional online casino. In addition, online casinos truly care about their customers, and you won’t have to deal with shady loan sharks. Online casinos such as 888casino even employ features that allow you set betting limits for yourself in advance, to prevent any kind of over-betting like Jim does.
To remedy the problem, Jim convinces his mother to lend him the money, but gambles it all away while out with Amy. This is definitely believable, given his tendencies and motto.
Jim is then kidnapped by the loan shark, who threatens him with the death of his student – in order to save Amy, Jim has to have Lamar win one of his games by no more than seven points. In this way the romance goes from a sub-plot to a tie-in with the main plot, giving it some modicum of redemption.
Saving the Day
Jim manages to get Frank, another loan shark, to lend him $260,000. He goes and tells Lee that the only way he can pay back the $410,000 he owes collectively to both him and Frank is if Lee gives him another $150,000 with which to gamble. With that money, Jim bribes Lamar to win his game by no more than seven points; before the game starts, Jim has Dexter take Franks $260,000 to Las Vegas to bet on it. The tension is built up well, here, as far as casino movies go, and the remarkable solution to the specific problem doesnt seem like as much of a deus-ex-machina as it actually is.
With the winnings, Jim immediately pays back the original loan shark. He then makes one last successful bet, leaving the winnings for Lee and Frank as final payment of his debts.
Free and broke, he runs out to see Amy. This completes the promise made by Jim’s espoused philosophy, of losing everything in order to build himself up from the beginning – except now, hes got someone else to care about.