FOR $10,000 THEY BREAK YOUR ARMS. FOR $20,000 THEY BREAK YOUR LEGS. AXEL FREED OWES $44,000.
New York City literature professor Axel Freed (James Caan) has a big gambling debt and turns to his mother (Jacqueline Brookes) for help. James Toback wrote this movie while fighting a gambling addiction, Caan starred in it while battling a cocaine addiction and the movie has references to a Dostoyevsky story where the lead character is hooked on roulette. An understanding of and sympathy for Axel Freed’s pathetic situation is built by the filmmakers in perceptive ways, with rich doses of angst underscored by Jerry Fielding’s Gustav Mahler-inspired music. Never reaches great dramatic heights, but Caan is good.
1974-U.S. 111 min. Color. Directed by Karel Reisz. Screenplay: James Toback. Music: Jerry Fielding. Cast: James Caan (Axel Freed), Paul Sorvino (Hips), Lauren Hutton (Billie), Morris Carnovsky, Jacqueline Brookes, Burt Young… James Woods.
Trivia: Remade as The Gambler (2014).