"The opening segments of the movie are simply odd, distracting and unconvincing. It's the movie's final act that is sick. [Ryan] O'Neal finally grows convinced that he has a problem. He realizes he is a degenerate gambler and needs help. So he goes to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, and finds the courage to stand up and identify himself as a compulsive gambler. He walks out with the leader of the meeting, who explains GA to him in a scene that sounds dictated by the film's technical advisers.
"Fine. He has a problem and he's found a way to try and deal with it. But can you seriously believe that MGM, with its giant investment in gambling, would allow the movie to end with O'Neal cleaning up his act and returning happily to life outside the casinos? No way. After he leaves the Gamblers Anonymous meeting, O'Neal goes to the airport, where he tries his luck on a slot machine. He wins. This is obviously a sign that his luck has changed, right? So he takes his new nest-egg back to the casino, where during an incredible winning streak he parlays his new stake into the $89,000 he needs to pay off the mob and set up a trust fund for his daughter.
"Once he's won the $89,000, does he continue to gamble? He's tempted. He holds the dice up in the air, and they glow like radioactive ingots. But then he hurls them across the room and leaves, determined never to gamble again. In other words, after he faced his addiction at the Gamblers Anonymous meeting, he improved to the degree that he only needed to gamble long enough to win back the $89,000 he needed. In real life, of course, he probably would have lost again, and gotten his kneecaps smashed.
"If this movie had been a remake of The Lost Weekend, I guess it would have ended with Ray Milland leaving the AA meeting and getting drunk—but only just enough to get a nice buzz, of course."