Gamble was staked as the biggest downhill film since 3 Minute Gaps in 2011. It would bring the new and old schools together, the world’s fastest riders, away from the pressures of the World Cup rigmarole, all set to the tune of Bricktop’s pipes… and not a trail bike in sight. Joe Bowman has pedigree and Mono was the man behind the classic Foot Out Flat Out series. So, have they hit the jackpot with Gamble?
Of course they have. How can you take the riders of this calibre to the locations laid on and not produce a banger?
I had been dubious of the Snatch narrative. Fearing that, at best, it would likely be a little gimmicky, at worst shoehorned in to negate the absence of the natural ‘race-season’ storyline due to Red Bull restrictions. Thankfully I was proven wrong, the theme was delivered well and gives the film a dimension that many of its recent competitors lack. Gamble is more than an extended web edit, it’s thought out, purposeful.
The film opens with Bryceland and Craig Evans in Madeira. As much as I love watching Bryceland destroy the Midlands on a trail bike, there’s something about the Rat going Mach 10 that just can’t be replicated. The infamous Rat style is given space to breathe on the bigger bike and Craig Evans more than keeps pace as well.
Blenki’s section is the one everyone’s been talking about though. Bariloche is a filmer’s dream, filled with grenade corners, stunning colours and largely untouched by lenses outside of EWS race footage… That won’t be the case for long when people cop a load of this though. He rides like a man possessed, fishtailing between turns leaving clouds of dust thicker than a Saharan sandstorm. It’s one of the shorter sections but it’s full throttle start to finish.
Finn Iles is a phenom. At 18 years old he delivered quite possibly the best segment of the entire film in Pila. Iles is speed incarnate, where others muscle their way down a track, Iles floats. His riding is mature beyond his years and it’s almost frightening to imagine how high his ceiling is.
Connor Fearon also deserves props for his Retallack section - this is a man who speeds up the rotation of the Earth whenever he rips a bike round a corner, on these unspoilt trails, it’s blissful.
There were some weaker sections though, a couple relied too heavily on nostalgia and sentimentality, which slowed the pace. I also felt, at times, the trails weren’t quite up to scratch for the calibre of rider on offer. Atwill’s section was vintage but it felt a touch predictable; tight, loose, leafy turns, you could have been forgiven for thinking it had been filmed on his local. It would have been nice to have seen Phil given slightly different terrain to express himself on. Atwill’s section is followed by Bruni in Madeira and I couldn’t help feeling that both riders might have benefited by having their locales reversed. Finally, one particularly egregious push-up shot sticks in the memory - come on lads, that was ridiculous!
Where other cinematic offerings have had a tendency to flatter to deceive, feeling like an extended showreel for the filmer, Gamble delivered in spades. There was nothing unnecessary; at no point did it feel self-gratifying, yet it was quietly impressive throughout. Mono and Bowman are to downhill what RevelCo is to freeride. Their choice of music, in particular, was inspired, reaching a crescendo with Mark Wallace’s section. The song was a touchpoint to 2013 and every edit of that time, a time when Stevie was the top dog in downhill; a fitting tribute to the Chainsaw.
Our biggest worry with Gamble? The delivery. It’s the impalpability of Gamble that is, through no fault of its own, its biggest flaw. In the absence of a tangible medium, will it be a struggle for someone to justify paying £10 for a digital download when the internet is awash with footage that is very nearly as good? Make no mistake, Gamble is the best film I have have seen in a long time and definitely worth sticking your hand into your pocket for, but the landscape has changed and the expectation for a paid product has changed. Gamble may well, unwittingly, prove to be the litmus paper for whether a feature-length paid product is still viable in 2018.
Available to pre-order NOW on Vimeo On Demand: http://radi.al/GAMBLE