Today I’d like to share with you an interesting guest article that was proposed to me courtesy of Christine Lindon, representing an England-based marketing company, Wise Marketing. Earlier this year I had posted a review of Mark Wahlberg’s then-latest film, the Rupert Wyatt-directed drama The Gambler. Given that Wahlberg is currently promoting a brand new comedy this weekend, Ted 2 (an important sequel, right. . . ?) this spotlight on Wahlberg is perfectly timed. I’d like to thank Christine for reaching out to me, and Amanda Cole for the write-up.
For actors that are renowned for being typecast in action movies and slapstick comedies, getting the proverbial monkey off their back can be challenging. Arguably, some don’t help their case but in Hollywood, nothing is as pleasant as it may seem.
When Mark Wahlberg made his screen debut in the 1995 film The Basketball Diaries alongside Leonardo DiCaprio he was already trying to shed his previous Marky Mark moniker that he acquired from his days as a model and rapper-of-sorts. Regardless of a sterling performance alongside a stellar cast of fledgling actors, it was evident it would take a lot of time for Wahlberg to leave his past behind.
Fast-forward 20 years and the Hollywood mainstay is still struggling to convince critics of his validity as a serious actor. However, if you dig deep and sift through the many films he’s featured in, there are notable performances in there: Lone Survivor, Shooter and his most recent The Gambler. But unfortunately industry hacks always remind the common reader of films such as 2 Guns, Planet of the Apes, Three Kings and the risqué Boogie Nights.
He’s also made forays into work behind the camera most notably co-producing the phenomenally successful Boardwalk Empire, which received a multitude of awards during its 5 seasons on network television. Though he seldom receives the praise he should.
However, probably his biggest gamble of late was with the remake of the 1974 classic The Gambler, which originally starred the revered James Caan. Wahlberg adopted the role of suave yet ultimately flawed English professor Jim Bennett. Rolling Stone reveals that he prepared for the role by eating less than usual and playing a lot of Texas Hold‘em, which Betfair describes as one of the most action-packed and prestigious poker variants. It was a different role than we’ve become accustomed to Wahlberg taking on, yet he executed it with consummate ease.
Paramount Pictures invested heavily in the film and also forecasted sizeable revenues from the film – something that never materialized. The film cost the production company a reported $25 million to make with it only recouping $33 million globally. Paramount had originally projected that they would make $25 million in the first week of the film’s release but this didn’t happen due to stiff competition at the latter part of 2014 from The Hobbit and Into the Woods.
So, with The Gambler being deemed a flop due its Box Office ratings, how did Wahlberg fare after the film’s release? Surprisingly well, and this praise was duly warranted. Wahlberg’s portrayal of the wistful and charismatic Bennett was a splendor to watch among an altogether lackluster performance from his supporting cast that included the portly John Goodman.
It was a role that Wahlberg was able to flex his acting muscles as opposed to his physique for once. A role that director Rupert Wyatt thought was ideal for Wahlberg and he proved his peer right.
But why didn’t the film live up to expectations? It’s strange because there’s obviously a market for it as gambling on a whole is still widespread even in the United States. Although online casinos don’t operate in all 50 states because of the Black Friday closures, it still commands large revenue streams. Although many are now prohibited in the United States, the online industry is still worth $9.3 billion annually. Poker is as popular as it has ever been, as is Las Vegas jaunts with Sin City welcoming 41 million people in 2014 to visit.
The stats don’t lie that there’s a market for a film like The Gambler but the films that have been released in this niche pose the issue. Casino films haven’t performed well at the Box Office for a considerable amount of time. Ben Affleck’s Runner Runner or the indie Poker Night featuring Ron Perlman are all examples of this. There’s even the 2015 flick, Wild Card, featuring Jason Statham that made a meager $3,000. So, it’s not a surprise that producers and actors like Wahlberg are thinking twice about venturing into this niche of films.
So, did the gamble pay off for Wahlberg? It definitely didn’t win him any fans at Paramount because of the poor return on investment. But you could definitely lodge a serious argument that the sniggers from industry critics could be put on ice for a while.
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