The Player John Appel

The Player John Appel
Without resorting to statistics or glib textbook psychiatric profiling, John Appel's surprisingly touching documentary on the motivations behind gambling and risk addiction detail the subject in an absorbing and insightful manner without providing solutions.

We can draw our own conclusions from the accounts of a conman in prison, a racetrack bookkeeper and a successful real estate agent that took his desire for "more" too far. But never are their experiences categorized, reduced or even specifically judged by the documentary presentation.

With an overall framing device of a narrator detailing his father's successes and his seemingly well-balanced childhood, The Player interjects interviews with various men trapped in the cycle of addiction. Most prominent is a jovial man that spends most of his waking life betting on horses, discussing the constant need for the high of the unknown and dangerous, along with his need to hide his losses from the world and his loved ones. His identity is defined by the presentation of security and perfection, which implies, but doesn't dote on, gambling as an idealistic quick fix for perceived Socio-economic shortcomings.

As a conman discusses the thrill he gets from outsmarting people and getting away with his schemes, we notice that he never suggests financial reward as a motivation. Even the occasional failure is worth the risk of the high that success and superiority brings.

These are just a few of the notions and concepts brought to the table, as the overriding narrative thread of an idyllic childhood turned on its head by paternal betrayal in gambling ties it all together and provides tonality.

What starts out as an exploration of psychological motivation transforms into a treatise on the pains of addiction, measuring up and passive resignation to one's fate. (Cobos Films)