After watching the Oscars, it’s easy to be reminded again of just how saturated Hollywood is with remakes of movies. That’s usually evident when the list of new films that make huge impacts simply isn’t very long.
While reboots and sequels can bog the film industry down, there is an obvious genre that is lacking both in new production and old stories needing new spins.
That would be none other than the gambling category, which gives viewers an inside look at the highs and lows of the world of betting.
These stories tend to be highly entertaining and engaging because the characters are all too real and the games they play are both thrilling and familiar.
One huge reason for the allure of gambling movies? People love stories of risk vs. reward.
These are authentic, relatable characters that are down on their luck, have their backs against the wall, and need to defy the odds to get out alive.
Shockingly, only a handful of gambling films have actually done everything correctly.
Whether it’s casting decisions, direction, story, or staying true to the actual gambling aspects of the film, there are not many gambling movies that check off all the boxes.
In fact, in an increasingly stale film genre, even the ones that do could require reboots or sequels.
Here are my seven favorite suggestions on the off chance Hollywood agrees the gambling scene needs some fresh (or tweaked) blood in the near future.
This is actually one of my all-time favorites, because it’s not your usual gambling movie. For one, it stars a guy, Mars Callahan, who really never had any other notable roles. It’s also a movie about pool hustling.
Callahan’s calling was clearly Poolhall Junkies, which he starred in, wrote, and directed.
Callahan delivered as the conflicted Johnny, who tried to morph from a pool hustler to a legit pool pro. The path to doing so was rather cloudy and made for a fun up-and-down movie.
While this was a classic for fans of gambling movies, it could have been a bit better. Callahan probably wasn’t the best choice for the starring role, and some of the other casting choices were regrettable, as well.
At its core, however, Poolhall Junkies was a tale of friendship, loyalty, risk, and redemption. It also exposed the ugly side of overly ambitious gambling and revealed interesting layers to the pool scene.
A sequel wouldn’t be totally crazy, but this movie was made in 2002, and I don’t think there is a whole lot of story left to tell. Johnny’s arc has been completed, and he went on to be a successful professional pool player.
Johnny could return to his hustling ways, but that would defeat the purpose of the entire message of the original film.
Instead, a complete Poolhall Junkies remake could be interesting.
I nominate Ryan Reynolds as the wise-cracking Johnny, while a re-do of the entire cast to make it a completely new rendition could make for a better-received film (34% on Rotten Tomatoes the first time around).
Call me crazy, but I’ve never been a big fan of Mel Gibson. He was fine enough in his prime, but there was always a type of smugness to him.
He had wit and charm, but it often felt forced, and you don’t want to be sold on an actor winning you over. You just want it to happen without noticing it’s happening.
Gibson did deliver in Maverick, which was a humorous tale about the mischievous Brett Maverick. Backed by Jodie Foster and James Garner, Gibson gave fans a fun gambling movie layered with action, comedy, and exciting table sequences.
This film graded out well in the end (66%) and is actually known as one of the best poker films ever, but it came off quite cheesy too often for my liking.
I still love the humor involved that keeps this movie light-hearted and props up the fun action sequences, but I think the writing could have been a bit better. A complete Maverick reboot with a new cast and a more complex story could give this thing new life.
You need the right lead for this, and I think Robert Downey Jr. would be perfect. He’s always been wittier than Gibson, and he’s also proven his action chops as Iron Man.
It’s been 24 years since Maverick touched down in the theaters, and while it was a hit, I think a remake could hand Hollywood an improved version.
Remaking Rounders would be a huge mistake.
I think a completely new rendition of Poolhall Junkies, Maverick, and other gambling films makes sense, but this is literally the greatest poker movie ever, if not the best movie in history dealing with gambling of any kind.
It’s pretty clear that Matt Damon’s 1998 gem simply should never be touched again. It certainly shouldn’t be touched by Hollywood with the foolish attempt to improve upon it.
The only case here is if there is a story involving Mike McDermott that flat out needs to be told.
This would be a Rounders sequel 20 years in the making, but you can’t tell me you’re not at least a little bit curious as to how McDermott thrived as a pro, what Teddy KGB is doing these days, or just how much trouble Worm has gotten himself into.
Truth be told, it may not be believable that Worm is even alive anymore, while McDermott returning to his hustling ways would potentially have you looking at a very similar story to the original.
That being said, if Rounders 2 can be done right, it has to be something the gambling community is willing to hear out.
Matt Damon suggested not too long ago that there is “a really good idea” for a Rounders sequel floating around out there. If so, I’d love to hear it, and if it can be executed remotely close to how the first one was, I’d be very interested in seeing it.
Some things shouldn’t be touched – especially after this long away – but a second Rounders movie is something I’d personally love to see.
The Cincinnati Kid
This is one of the few classic gambling movies that I wouldn’t mind seeing a fresh take on.
Don’t get me wrong, Steve McQueen’s turn as The Kid was very convincing, and it’s always going to be tough to top his cool demeanor. However, die-hard gambling fans haven’t witnessed a great poker film in years (Rounders was the last one, really), and The Cincinnati Kid first hit theaters back in 1965.
If there was ever a time to give this story another look, it’d be now. There have already been new renditions of The Gambler and other gambling stories, so this one is certainly an option for Hollywood.
Upgrading over Steve McQueen is virtually impossible, but Daniel Craig may have that collected persona that is needed to nail this role.
Casting The Man appropriately would also be a bit of an ordeal (Jeff Bridges might suffice), but if the moviemakers make the right casting calls and freshen up the story, it could be a classic all over again.
The point is that this is a fantastic gambling story that isn’t necessarily all about the game or winning, but about learning when to walk away. As long as the effort isn’t lazy, a fresh take could be worth doing.
The Hustler/Color of Money
I certainly don’t like to imagine many Paul Newman movies being redone, but I just love the story of Fast Eddie Felson.
Whether it’s Fast Eddie’s early roller coaster days where he struggles to come to terms with the man and pool player he is, or his wiser years where he’s coaching and later battling a cocky young up-and-comer, I want to see this story again.
Nothing will ever beat Newman’s take on this iconic role, and the originals will always have their place in film history. That being said, this franchise could be rebooted with a more modern take.
The Hustler is a more dramatic pivot off of Poolhall Junkies, and it dives deeper into the psyche of its character. Remaking this movie with two epic characters (say, Russell Crowe and John Goodman?) could give modern pool and gambling fans something to cheer for.
Mark Wahlberg arguably failed where James Caan delivered. The Gambler was an instant hit back in 1974 and was such a captivating story that Hollywood tried to make it a successful film again.
The story of a college professor with a gambling problem that just can’t be fixed, The Gambler explores the darkest avenues of the gambling world, but also highlights the rush that comes with that fine line between winning and losing.
There are lessons to be learned here, but the remake of The Gambler (2014) swung and missed badly. Scored with a weak 44% grade on Rotten Tomatoes, the remake did a terrible job with casting and a worse job with direction and delivery.
A great move could be to reboot here with someone who portrays both a college professor and someone cocky enough to think they can outsmart anyone. Bryan Cranston stands out as a fine choice to successfully drive a third try in the not-too-distant future.
You can touch classics, but I’m not asking for a remake of the original The Sting starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman because it doesn’t need one.
It was an amazing con movie from start to finish, whether it be the story, the casting, the acting, or the direction.
The Sting 2 was a total farce, though. It was a mockery of the franchise and gave viewers two weak replacements for legendary characters.
This was a sequel that probably should have never happened even if Newman and Redford agreed to it, but when they weren’t in the mix to reprise their roles, the studio should have created a completely different story.
That’s the idea here. I don’t want a retelling of Gondorff and Hooker’s long con, or even this second sloppy story. I just want a fresh take on this idea with two actors that deliver the same chemistry and appeal we saw in the first film back in 1973.
It’d be fun to get a Robert Redford cameo in here, but pairing two witty actors like Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe could do the trick here. The two worked well off of each other in The Nice Guys, and while a sequel to that movie would be nice to see, it’d be great to get that same dynamic back together again in any fashion.
The Sting’s reboot could come as The Sting 3 just for the sake of keeping the franchise alive, or a full reboot with brand new characters would work.
I’m not totally opposed to using the same characters as the original, either, provided this remake doesn’t tell the same exact story and makes sure it stands on its own.
Hollywood doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel here, but the premise of an impressive con is an alluring story. In addition, the comedic element guys like Gosling and Crowe could provide in a serious setting make this a reboot worth tracking.
Overall, the point here is to look back at some of the best gambling films and think about which ones are so good they shouldn’t be touched and which are too good to not provide an updated spin on.
It’s been proven over time that nothing is truly untouchable. Remakes are worth doing if done right, and if there is a legit story to tell, nobody should be against a good sequel, either.
These movies all stand the test of time and don’t need to have life injected back into them. However, as a fan of gambling movies, I certainly would love to hear Hollywood’s ideas about resurrecting some of these films.