Three Of The Best Gambling Movies Based In New York
Gambling films have held their own in the world of movies for as long as they’ve been around, with some of the most iconic filmed in New York.
The Empire State has the fourth largest population in the U.S and is some of the most famous sports teams, including the NBA’s Knicks, NHL’s Rangers, NFL’s Giants, Jets and Bills, and the MLB’s Yankees and Mets.
Earlier this year, New York sports betting debuted on the mobile scene. Some of the most popular online sportsbooks are offering odds on the teams mentioned above, and plenty more, right in NY. It’s also been reported that the state has seen over $5 billion go into mobile bets on sports outcomes since the practice was made legal in January.
We just might see some more gambling films get made in New York given the way sports gambling has continued to grow therein, but let’s give a shout out to three of the best that have come through so far.
Uncut Gems (2019)
Uncut Gems is the most recent, having dropped on Netflix in 2019. The film, starring mega Hollywood star Adam Sandler, was directed by brothers Benny and Josh Safdie.
Sandler plays the main character, Howard Ratner, with the likes of Idina Menzel, Julia Fox, and Lakeith Stanfield also included in the cast. Former NBA star forward Kevin Garnet also has a role in Uncut Gems, playing himself. His career with the Boston Celtics is a focal point in the plot.
Sandler’s character, Ratner, owns a jewelry store in New York but has a gambling addiction that destroys his personal life. He also throws himself into the deep end with criminal loan sharks.
The NY-based film received rave reviews and earned Fox a nomination for the Breakthrough Actor Award at the Gotham Awards in 2019. Taylor Russell, however, took home the accolade for her part in Waves.
“The Safdies use New York City in ways that haven’t been seen since films in the ’70s,” film critic Sheila O’Malley wrote about the portrayal of New York. “The city has been so cleaned up and gentrified and homogenized it might be easy to forget that so much goes on at street-level, so much chaos, the marginalized and lost seeking a foothold, the grifters and hustlers slipping through the cracks, working their angles. The Safdies’ “Heaven Knows What” was documentary-like in its approach, but their follow-up “Good Time” was a race-against-the-clock thriller, its action sprawling over the five boroughs.
Of course, Uncut Gems has a story to tell but it’s also a lesson on the dangers of gambling addiction. If anything, you should learn to be responsible with your bets.
Matt Damon had a pretty good year in 1998, with two of his best movies releasing then. The Oscar Award-winning actor saw Saving Private Ryan and Rounders launch that year. The former was the bigger film of the two and is considered to be one of the best movies ever – Rounders wasn’t as highly regarded but still garnered very good reviews.
The film also has Edward Norton as a star and was one of his breakouts. John Turturro, John Malkovich and Famke Janseen are part of the cast too.
Damon’s Mike McDermott is the best friend of Norton’s Lester Murphy in the New York-based bit that sees McDermott struggling with the consequences of losing tens of thousands in poker. He quits the game outright, but Murphy lands them in trouble with his poor gambling habits that leave McDermott reeling as he tries to get his life back on the rails.
The Gambler (1974)
The Gambler, released in 1974, stars James Caan (popular for his role in The Godfather), Paul Sorvino (popular for his role in Goodfellas), Paper Lion’s Lauren Hutton, and Broadway legend Morris Carvovsky.
The movie was directed by Karel Reisz. Robert Chartodd and Irwin Winkler were the producers.
Much like Uncut Gems, The Gambler focuses on gambling addiction. Axel Freed, played by Caan, is a college professor with said problem who is struggling to balance his family and professional life. He gets himself in serious trouble by borrowing money from the mafia.
Caan would earn a nomination for Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Drama at the 32nd Golden Globe Awards but that was won by Jack Nicholson, who snagged the award on account of his role in Chinatown.
The Gambler has since been remade, with Mark Whalberg, John Goodman, Brie Larson, and Michael K. Williams starring in a 2014 iteration.