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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY FOURTEEN

The Gambler

Mark Wahlberg is Jim Bennett, a professor of literature with inherited wealth, good looks, style, and brilliance, but who, for enigmatic reasons, “likes to lose” and seems to be determined to ruin himself. “You are the perfect example of how a person can start off with no problems whatsoever and then go out of their way to make sure that they have all of them,” diagnoses one of his students. Bennett’s poison of choice is gambling and consequent debts to gangsters. The current of self-destruction that runs through The Gambler would make it an unpleasant film to watch if not for its hypnotic quality.

It is difficult not to discern in this movie a metaphor for European civilization’s self-immolation and its potential for resurrection. Indebted to Jewish, Asian, and black gangsters to the tune of something like $500,000, his survival, thanks to his own reckless regimen of self-loathing, depends upon an urgently needed combination of fortune and will power. Will Bennett ever catch a winning hand – and, if so, will he be satisfied with it? Finding out is an idiosyncratically entertaining and anxiety-ridden experience, though the “fuck”-saturated dialogue, one should mention, will not appeal to every viewer’s taste.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Gambler is:

7. Immigration-ambivalent. “Do you have a problem – wah, wah, wah – like some little fuckin’ girl – wah, wah, wah – or some Somali who can’t process that there’s no food where they live?” This ambiguous statement might suggest either that Somalis are stupid – and therefore undesirable as immigrants – or that they are validated in seeking better lives for themselves in the West.

6. Class-conscious. “Poor people stay poor people,” alleges one of the songs on the soundtrack.

5. Sexist! “Please, tell me you hit your wife harder than that, you fuckin’ pussy.”

4. Reactionary, dispelling egalitarian myths about the power of education. “If you’re not a genius, don’t bother.” Bennett suggests that his bored students are angry over “unequal distribution of talent” and tells them, “If you don’t have the magic, no amount of wishing will change that.” He goes on: “When you leave here today, call your parents and tell them you apologize for wasting their time and more importantly wasting their money, sitting in this classroom learning absolutely nothing.” Genetics is described as “a cruel motherfuckin’ mistress.”

3. Racist! “You know, they expect me to pass you regardless,” Bennett confides to a star basketball player (Anthony Kelley) taking one of his classes. “They want me to give you a passing grade so you can keep going out there and bouncing that basketball around.” Frank, John Goodman’s Jewish gangster character, uses the derogatory term “schwarze” to refer to blacks.

2. Anti-American. “The United States of America is based on ‘Fuck you!’” This position of power, however, has been “lost forever”, and King George III, in retrospect, “looks like a fuckin’ birthday present.” Bennett says of his condition, “If I get to nothing, then I can start over.” He demands an extreme – victory or death – just as western man, presented with no healthy outlets for his manly and his honorable impulses, will fall into dissolution and lose his will to live.

1. Anti-Semitic! Bennett emancipates himself from his cycle of self-destruction by freeing himself from the grip of the Jew Frank, a disgusting blob with an amateur interest in psychoanalysis, whose clout derives from debt, and who threatens the protagonist as follows: “You will get me not just what you owe me from your family. You will get me their accounts so I can have them vacuumed from Russia. You jump off a bridge, you can do it knowing I will kill your entire bloodline.” He expects Bennett to repeat the words “I am not a man” – to verbally castrate himself, in effect – as a condition for one of his loans. For the curious, The Gambler was written by William Monahan, who also penned the screenplay for the great populist Mel Gibson thriller Edge of Darkness (2010).

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook 

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Assault-On-Wall-Street-Dominic-Purcell

Prolific writer-producer-director Uwe Boll, best known for notoriously reviled horror films like House of the Dead (2003) and Alone in the Dark (2005), now taps into understandable populist rage at the crony capitalist establishment with the depressing Assault on Wall Street. Powerfully built Dominic Purcell, something of a poor man’s Clive Owen, stars as down-on-his-luck security guard Jim Baxford, who, after losing his job and his wife (Erin Karpluk) following her protracted illness and financial anxiety suicide, decides to diversify his portfolio with a little vigilante vengeance directed at the seemingly untouchable high-rollers and bankster exploiters he holds collectively responsible for his personal tragedy.

Purcell is adequately tough and earnest, if not particularly interesting, in the lead; but it is in two key supporting roles that Assault on Wall Street shows true inspiration in casting. An aging John Heard is the perfect choice to play number one on Baxford’s hit list: selfish, nihilistic toxic investment CEO Jeremy Stancroft. Even greasier, however, in a role one wishes had been expanded, is uber-oily Eric Roberts as money-grubbing attorney Patterson. Roberts has aged, if not quite gracefully, then fascinatingly, with a uniquely silverfish-like screen presence that ideally lends itself to high villainy. Other familiar faces in the cast include Keith David, Edward Furlong, and Michael Pare as Baxford’s buddies Freddy, Sean, and Frank.

Assault on Wall Street is a decent rental, but may disappoint vigilante fans by spending too much time (nearly an hour) on the humiliating build-up and not enough on the retribution so temptingly advertised in the title. Consequently, it earns a modest 3.5 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Assault on Wall Street is:

11. Pro-police. Cops are depicted as human types who share in the general plight and sympathize with Baxford’s mission.

10. Anti-slut. “I’m gonna get an STD from this sandwich,” Frank teases a waitress. Corporate bigwigs consort with whores.

9. Christ-ambivalent. While a preacher attempts consolation, mouthing, “God visits us with many mysteries in life,” Baxford rather takes to heart more militant Biblical passages such as, “He trains my hands for war” (cf. nos. 1 and 7)

8. Marriage-ambivalent. Baxford’s marriage is a devoted one and would, if not for her illness and his financial worries, be happy. Friend Frank’s wife, however, is a cheater.

7. Antiwar. Baxford is a veteran forgotten in his time of need by the country that used him. In reply to the idea that violence is not a solution, a caller to a radio program asks, “Isn’t violence the official solution in Iraq and Afghanistan?” (cf. nos. 1 and 9)

6. Postracial, with blacks and whites interacting as friends irrespective of racial differences. And to demonstrate that his is an equal opportunity beef, Baxford even liquidates a few blacks along with the many white guys in suits and ties.

5. Drug-ambivalent. Baxford smokes philosophically and his friends are enthusiastic drinkers. “Let’s go get some alcohol, make the pain go away.” Baxford, in the wake of his personal ruin, is invited to “watch the game and do some serious drinkin'” for therapeutic purposes. But a man is claimed in a news report to have died in a “drunken accident”.

4. Anti-state. The cronyist statist quo, or the “plutocratic capturing of American politics”, transcends Republican vs. Democrat squabbles, with Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Chris Dodd, and Alan Greenspan getting name-dropped as culpable players. At a lower level of weaselliness, Assistant D.A. Marwood (Barclay Hope) insensitively brushes off Baxford’s concerns. That Baxford is able to purchase military wares from a black market gun dealer (Clint Howard) militates against the notion that government-mandated gun control is effective or enforceable. Betraying the movie’s mixed messages about the place of government, however, is the fact that deregulation is also blamed for the ’08 collapse.

3. Anti-corporate. “The real fuckin’ criminals –  they’re downtown [i.e., on Wall Street].” Goldman Sachs, MF Global, Cerberus Capital, JP Morgan, and Lehman Brothers are among the outfits that receive negative product placement.

2. Anti-capitalistic. “System’s rigged, motherfucker.” Told “Fuck you,” a banker calmly replies, “That’s a fair response, I suppose.” Free market talk conceals an “anything goes mentality”. “The rich still get richer and the poor get poorer.” Stancroft justifies his misdeeds with a social Darwinist outlook. “That’s the free trade system, my friend,” he says. “That’s capitalism.” “There’s not a person on this earth who’s worth over a hundred million dollars that came by that money honestly.” The film also evinces a naive sympathy for the homeless, juxtaposing their plight with the ease of the leisure class.

1. Pro-vigilante. Baxford is his own law, but also a people’s fury, and wears an Anonymous-reminiscent white mask for the final killing spree.

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