We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
This movie is sick. It pretends to be a warning against compulsive gambling, but it falls for the oldest dodge in the gambler's book: "I only gambled enough to win back my losses." Maybe I shouldn't have expected anything more from an MGM movie that was shot on location at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. (To be fair, however, MGM is not scrupulous about its own image. In the movie, the MGM hotel manager happily sends a free hooker to the hero's room.)
The movie stars Ryan O'Neal as a sportswriter who has been assigned to do a series on compulsive gambling. He is apparently on an expense account that would be adequate to do an expose on the Pentagon. He arrives in Vegas, checks into the Grand, and starts to interview the winners and losers. The only catch is O'Neal is a compulsive gambler himself, and he owes a gangster lots of money because of bets he's lost on big games.
The movie is written and directed in an odd, dated style; it's like a throwback to hard-boiled 1940s gangster films, but it has some touches of its own, like dialogue that sounds borrowed from pulp novels, and characters who disconcertingly start talking in rhymed couplets. The filmmaker is Richard Brooks, a veteran of many great movies of the 1940s and later, but this time he hasn't found a style that suits his material. O'Neal looks and sounds so odd in this garish, neon-lit melodrama that he is hardly ever convincing.
The movie's hyperkinetic editing style doesn't help. Neither does a tortured flashback, in which O'Neal's wife is trapped in a car crash while racing to bring him money so his poker cronies won't break his legs. The crash takes her off the scene, and there's a love interest between O'Neal and Catherine Hicks, as the casino waitress who doubles as the house hooker.