Interesting Dated References: Kenny Rogers cashing-in on a hit song in ways that have yet to ever be duplicated by anyone ever; throwing a gun in a large wooden barrel labeled, “PICKLES,” when you are in a bar/saloon; Playing cards with a group of men in a bar/saloon instead of sitting alone in a sports bar fucking around with your stupid phone.
Best Line: “He wears a beard,” in reference to a man having a beard.
Social Context: That “The Gambler” was so successful it spawned a television movie is odd enough on it’s own, but when you consider there were another four sequels spanning until 1994, it’s downright absurd. I want to see a chart that shows how much money Kenny Rogers made off “The Gambler” versus how many times he’s had to sing the song. I’m willing to bet two things, the numbers are both astronomical, and the numbers are very close to each other.
Four sequels! I’m surprised Rogers didn’t record subsequent songs that somehow continue the stories from the movies. Just different verses with the same chorus over and over for years. I bet he thought about doing it.
Summary: Kenny Rogers (who more or less has this exact same look on his face for the entire production) plays Brady Hawkes, a tight-lipped gambler on a journey to find his son. Since this is the 1900’s, and since it made for an inexpensive set, most of the journey takes place in a train car. At the first depot we are introduced to wet-behind-the-ears wanna-be gambler Billy Montana (Bruce Boxleitner of TRON fame).
Billy is flirting pretty hard with a woman in the depot named Jennie. When she rebuffs his advances by informing him she’s married, he backs off. Rogers then goes about taking all of Billy Montana’s money in a poker game.
Then there’s a whole padded storyline about Kenny Rogers son, Jeremiah, trying to escape his abusive stepfather, played by Clu Gulager, who has been in a lot of stuff and has a name that is maybe ten times better than yours (according to preliminary statistical evidence).
Jeremiah receives money from his battered mother and is told to go hide in some town and wait for Rogers. Logistically, I don’t know how they set this up since they didn’t even have phones, but nevertheless the mother seems super confident about sending her son off on his own with a bunch of cash.
Back on the train (and related depot stops along the way) there are various hijinks that seem to always involve Rogers saving Billy Montanta or Jennie, the recovering whore. The guy above is referred to as a cutthroat. Finally Rogers and crew arrive at the town where his is supposed to meet his son.
I was 100% certain Jeremiah the kid was played by an uncredited Michael Shannon, but then I realized he’s played by former teen idol Ronnie Scribner. So after reuniting with his son, Rogers decides to go have a showdown with the abusive stepdad …
But not before he has to have some type of gambling showdown with the train baron in his private, swanky, train baron car where hookers stand around and smile.
Then there’s a 20-minute showdown/fight where Rogers humiliates Clu and chases him out of town. Shortly after, Rogers, his son, and Billy Montana all wander off into the sunset. Look, this is effective melodrama, but it’s lowest common denominator TV stuff that is pretty passive to watch.
Poster and Box Art: This was made for TV, so there isn’t a movie poster. Do you like Kenny Rogers? Do you like his face and facial hair? Then you’re going to like this Betamax box.
Availability: You can get this one and two subsequent sequels all on one DVD at Amazon.