He Knows When to Hold 'em
When Brady Hawkes (Kenny Rogers) receives a letter from the son he has never met asking for his help as his stepfather is abusive, he stops everything he is doing and gets the train to El Paso to come to his rescue. It is just before getting on the train that Brady comes across Billy Montana (Bruce Boxleitner), a confidant young gambler who thinks he knows everything but is quickly taught a lesson in gambling by Brady. It is the start of a friendship as they end up travelling together with Billy learning plenty from Brady. And the new friends come to the aid of Jennie Reed (Lee Purcell), a former prostitute who is having trouble with Arthur Stobridge (Harold Gould), the owner of the train line. But there is big trouble waiting for them when it comes to Rufe Bennett (Clu Gulager) the kid's stepfather who runs the town and has many henchman waiting for Brady's arrival.
The first thing which grabbed me about "Kenny Rogers as The Gambler" was not the movie but the minute the credit starts and we hear Kenny singing "The Gambler" my foot started to tap and I started to smile. At that point I reckon this movie could have been a turkey and I would have probably enjoyed it purely down to Kenny Roger's warm voice and the toe tapping nature of "The Gambler" having a mood enhancing quality.
And I have to be honest and say that whilst I enjoyed "Kenny Rogers as The Gambler", to the point I watched it a second time a few days later, there was nothing about this made for TV western which made it special. In fact "Kenny Rogers as The Gambler" is a simple movie as we have the wise Brady standing up to bad guys in a non threatening way whilst passing on his wisdom to the young and enthusiastic Billy who has a lot to learn in life. And I have to say there is some wisdom in this such as when Billy goes to a saloon as the train stops hoping to make a quick dollar gambling whilst Brady tells him the people there are waiting for people like him who pop in when the train stops.
But what "Kenny Rogers as The Gambler" has is laid back charm to the point it overflows with it. We get it from Bruce Boxleitner delivering good natured enthusiasm as young Billy and we also get gentle charm from Lee Purcell as Jennie. But of course we have Kenny Rogers being basically a version of Kenny Rogers giving us quiet wisdom and worldly experience without really breaking a sweat even when dealing with trouble. And it works because in an almost laid back way Rogers makes Brady a knowledgeable and likeable character.
What this all boils down to is that "Kenny Rogers as The Gambler" is a charming little feel good western which thrives on the likeable nature of Kenny Rogers and the quiet wisdom of his character, Brady Hawkes.