Movie Review: Good performances are squandered on Wolves, a flimsy takeoff of The Gambler

Here’s Wolves in a nutshell: It’s The Gambler (either the James Toback-scripted original with James Caan or the remake with Mark Wahlberg) rewritten as a rote indie drama about high school sports, minus whatever gutsiness or humanity it takes to ask the audience to sympathize with an addict. The title refers to the team nickname of a Manhattan prep school, whose star basketball player, Anthony Keller (Taylor John Smith), has to suffer for the misdeeds of his dad, Lee (Michael Shannon), an English professor and failed novelist with a serious betting problem that has left him deep in debt to a variety of bullnecked or hatchet-faced crooks. Shannon plays Lee with a pinched voice and a poof of uncombed hair, and it’s a joy to watch this great actor force the breath of life into a character so bogus that half of his purpose in the script …

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