Jim (Mark Wahlberg) and his girlfriend Amy (Brie Larson) are about to lose a lot of money in The Gambler.

Jim (Mark Wahlberg) and his girlfriend Amy (Brie Larson) are about to lose a lot of money in The Gambler.

Reel Reviews: Double feature The Gambler and Good Kill are winning bets

Good Kill and The Gambler are two good movies that you might have missed.

  • Apr. 19, 2015 7:00 p.m.

Good Kill is the story of a drone pilot in the U.S. Airforce, Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) who, along with his team, kills the enemy remotely, from the safety of an air-conditioned shipping container near Las Vegas, then they drive home to their families every night.

When the voice on the other end of the phone, “Langley” (Peter Coyote, literally calling it in), begins ordering hits on more and larger groups of people, Egan and the other officers begin having trouble carrying out those orders.

English professor by day and a gambler by night, Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) risks his life by perpetually borrowing money from gangsters to pay his debts. A compulsive gambler, even when his well-to-do mother (Jessica Lange) reluctantly gives him the money to pay the debt, he’s unable to help himself. Bennett is philosophic about the beatings he takes and seems oddly prepared to die, until Amy (Brie Larson), a bright student, snaps Bennett out of his existential funk.

We say, “Good Kill and The Gambler are two good movies that you might have missed.”

TAYLOR: I thought The Gambler was more fun than Good Kill, but the latter might be the better movie of the two.

The Gambler really feels like a rough interpretation of Albert Camus’ classic existentialist novel The Stranger. Professor Bennett even discusses the novel in his English class.

Like Mersault, the main character from the book, Bennett loses a parent at the beginning, hates his job, associates with shady characters, has an inappropriate relationship with a young lady and ultimately sees the continuation of his life as irrelevant. Unlike The Stranger he seems to snap out of it.

The only thing that hurts the film is Marky Mark waxing philosophic. It was pretentious, sometimes boring and I didn’t buy it.

HOWE: I agree with your statement about Good Kill being the better movie out of the two.

I found Good Kill to be a very interesting film. I would even say this is the best film about the Afghanistan war I have seen since we began writing reviews. It gives a different view of how the troops are fighting over there, rather than just the run-of-the-mill solider movies like Lone Survivor, Zero Dark Thirty or American Sniper.

Hawke gives one of his better performances in a long time, proving that his talent in Training Day wasn’t just a one off. He gives some real emotion to his character and you can see it in his facial expressions. He is torn between doing what he is told to do and what he thinks he should do.

TAYLOR: The problem with Good Kill is that it’s kind of a bummer. Sociologically, politically, it’s supposed to be a conversation starter, but really it’s just ugly, pulling back the curtain on the personal damage to those who use overgrown radio-controlled planes for sanctioned assassinations. Hawke is an alcoholic who can’t examine his virtue, without jeopardizing his job.

The Gambler is nothing but self-examination, finding nothing, maybe lust. At least in The Gambler you’ll see John Goodman as a Jabba the Hutt-like gangster, shaving his head in the sauna. Depending on your mood, I recommend seeing both movies when they are made available to you.

– Howe gives The Gambler 3 chips out of 5 and Good Kill 4 slugs of vodka out of 5.

– Taylor gives both movies 3.5 anti-depressant prescriptions out of 5.

Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are movie reviewers based in Vernon, B.C.