Hollywood trailers have come a long way. When I first saw the promo for this Kevin Spacey flick, I totally wanted to go see this film about these bunch of students who go to Vegas and take The House for a ride. Seeming kinda sorta like Ocean's Eleven
for the math geeks, I thought the trailer to be all sorts of neat.
The film being advertised, though, is anything but. If there was anything interesting about this film, it was long lost at the hand of the makers, surrendered to the Hollywood machine churning out one of the most predictable films this summer.
You would be forgiven to expect a film about high stakes gambling in Vegas, where attractive, irreverent young men and women use their skills at math to break the house, to be at least as thrilling as its own premise. I can see the promise of a good time there - but that is always hinted at, through the entire first half, if you can believe it. Far from delivering on it, it winds down being as unexciting as actual math.
Ben (Jim Sturgess) is a prodigy, a math student with grades as good as they come. When it comes time for him to worry about how he is going to pay for his Harvard tuition, there enters a glib and overpowering personality in the guise of a Professor. Micky Rosa used to be a card counter, and now runs an operation where he trains students to do the dirty work for him. The incredibly gifted students keep close count of the cards in a dealer's hand and signal their friends to go in for the kill when the time is ripe.
Where the film derails is not paying enough attention to the macguffin at all. The script, loosely adapted from Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down The House, delves into the spiraling madness that surrounds Ben, and the lust for money and the girl that sidetracks him. This would have been a really interesting place for the film to go too - unfortunately, director Robert Luketic lacks the prowess to tread Scorsese territory with the light-footedness required for the part, and messes up the pacing badly.
Part of the blame must also go to Kate Bosworth, playing fellow conspirator Jill Taylor. Looking radiant as ever, hers is the personality of a block of particularly uninteresting wood. Her take on her character amounts to nothing but a crooked smile given in three flavors, and she makes it profoundly impossible to have fun with her droll deliveries.
Jim Sturgess does what is asked of him, and mind, that doesn't prove to be too taxing. The only thing that keeps the momentum in the film is Kevin Spacey. His blend of lunacy and straight up villainy is something that makes the plot's standard run of double and triple crosses (all of which you should be able to spot without any problem) seem interesting, and keeps the movie from stopping from inertia.
For a while, it's mindless fun enough, but has no substance in which to sink its teeth into. As it progresses, the film loses whatever steam it gathered, and all we are left with is a by-the-numbers 'thriller' with reveals coming in at standard pace. There are better films coming soon, and I'd recommend you wait for them. If you still think it looks like fun, that's because the trailers have come a long way. In fooling us.