The Gamble

  • 1988
  • Movie
  • R
  • Adventure, Historical, Romance

One of that peculiar breed of Italian movies toplined by American stars on paid holidays, this 18th-century swashbuckler went direct-to-video in America in December 1990. A bawdy TOM JONES Italian-style — adapted from Venetian-born Alberto Ongaro's 1986 novel La Partita, which won Italy's top literary award, the Campiello Prize — it showcases the...read more

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Reviewed by Frank Lovece
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One of that peculiar breed of Italian movies toplined by American stars on paid holidays, this 18th-century swashbuckler went direct-to-video in America in December 1990. A bawdy TOM JONES Italian-style — adapted from Venetian-born Alberto Ongaro's 1986 novel La Partita, which won Italy's top literary award, the Campiello Prize — it showcases the estimable Matthew Modine and Jennifer Beals at their community-theater worst. Fortunately, it also demonstrates that Faye Dunaway is an astounding actress and screen presence, even when slumming in tight-bodice couture just this side of kitsch. Impetuous heir Francesco Sacredo (Modine) returns to Venice after a 14-month exile for dallying with a married noblewoman and other shenanigans. To his shock, he finds the family fortune gone — his father has lost it to cold-heat German countess Matilda Von Wallenstein (Dunaway), a renowned gambler. Rumors and a string of broken men say she's unbeatable and she is, for reasons left open to interpretation through a subtly foreshadowed, last-minute reveal. Setting her sights on the scion, the countess offers Francesco an all-or-nothing bet — if he wins, his family gets its fortune back; if he loses, he's hers. He loses. He flees. Unperturbed, the countess sends two stylish bounty hunters, the Podesta brothers, to collect her prize. Before heading for his sister's home in France, he stops by to see his married mistress, Lucrezia, who tells him to seek help from her sister, unmarried Lady Olivia Candioni (Beals), in Verona. Olivia, however, has her own problems, what with being pressed into an arranged marriage to a decrepit geezer. She forces Francesco to take her along — and somehow devolves from period noblewoman to modern, whiny suburban princess. As this road-show "It Happened One Notte" wends its way through the timeless Italian countryside, Francesco beds various scullery maids and an Army captain's hot-to-trot wife (Corinne Clery, star of THE STORY OF O), while he and the equally randy Olivia inevitably fall in love. Amid horrendous, straight-faced dialog ("Finally! A gambler worth my mettle!"), the countess and Francesco engage in a cat-and-mouse game with lots of swordplay, horses, villas, pistols and an attenuated ending. Given the surprisingly bland direction and misconceived score — particular disappointments, given the Italian flair for each — this is all a losing bet. The frequently cited running time of 108 minutes is incorrect, since it includes five minutes of video preview material.

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  • Released: 1988
  • Rating: R
  • Review: One of that peculiar breed of Italian movies toplined by American stars on paid holidays, this 18th-century swashbuckler went direct-to-video in America in December 1990. A bawdy TOM JONES Italian-style — adapted from Venetian-born Alberto Ongaro's 19… (more)

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