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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Gamble (1988)

In late 18th century Venice, a young man (Matthew Modine) returns from a year in exile to find his father (Ian Bannen) has squandered the family fortune by gambling. A ruthless German countess (Faye Dunaway) has not only obtained the family wealth but its properties too. She offers the son an opportunity to win everything back if he wins at the gambling table. If he loses ... she will own him body and soul. Based on the novel LA PARTITA by Alberto Ongaro (which I've not read), the film's narrative would seem to have infinite possibilities but the film is a mess. Directed by Carlo Vanzina, this is an Italian film and the script is credited to three Italian screenwriters. I assume that the script was then translated into English but whoever did the translation didn't seem to notice how flat and awkward the dialogue sounds in English. It doesn't help at all that wholesome faced, freshly scrubbed all-American Modine is hopelessly miscast as an 18th century Italian nobleman who's also a babe magnet. His monotone line delivery screams Southern California rather than the Mediterranean. Jennifer Beals, also playing a member of the Italian aristocracy, doesn't fare much better but at least she looks Italian. In general, the acting is amateurish. Only Dunaway as the film's dragon lady villainess seems to know what she's doing. The film's authentic locations (Venice, Verona, Lombarda) and the handsome period costumes by Roberta GuidiDi Bagno are a plus. With Corinne Clery (MOONRAKER) and Feodor Chaliapin (MOONSTRUCK).

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