by Tony Medley
Running Time: 123 minutes
Based on a true story as
written by Ben Mezrich in the September 2002 issue of Wired magazine,
the fictional plot devices inserted by writers Peter Steinfeld and Allan
Loeb and director Robert Luketic detract from what is a fascinating
And that story is that some
MIT students actually did take on Vegas and beat it by counting cards.
In the film, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) recruits a team of bright MIT
students to make a lot of money by counting cards playing 21 in Las
Vegas. His prime recruit is the brilliant Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess),
who he recruits to join his team that includes Jill Taylor (Kate
Bosworth), whom Ben had been eyeing on campus anyway, Choi (Aaron Yoo,
who was so good in “Disturbia”), Kianna (Liza Lapira), and Fisher (Jacob
Pitts). While there, Cole (Laurence Fishburne) becomes suspicious.
The story of these young
kids taking on big, bad Las Vegas should have been compelling enough.
Unfortunately, Hollywood had to make something really good worse by
adding a kind of silly love story and a previous enmity between Cole and
Micky, both of which detract from the action and what should have been
Further, there are some
plot holes so big you can drive a truck through them. In the first
place, I doubt that the MIT students who really did pull this off, did
it all in the same casino. But that’s what Micky and his cohorts do
because they do it all under the nose of Cole. Second, they certainly
aren’t circumspect because they all come in together and they all
apparently stay together, when Micky specifically tells them that they
are not to acknowledge that they know one another.
The big tipoff that a deck
is hot is for one of the scouts to put his or her arms together behind
their backs. Seems to me that this is such an unnatural pose that it
would be a real red flag for someone who is looking for something, like
Cole is. But maybe that’s what happened.
Then, the main idea of
counting cards is that it can only be done between shuffles. Once the
cards are shuffled, you have to start counting all over again. The cards
can be “hot” really for only a very few hands. But in this film Ben is
told that a deck is hot and he stays at that same table for what seems
like all night.
The acting is pretty good throughout.
But because of the script and the story and the too-long running
time, this is a film that is memorable only for what it could have
been, much like Spacey’s “Beyond the Sea” (2004), the enjoyment of
which he diminished by using his own voice instead of Bobby Darin’s.