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Running Time:
2 hours

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for some violence, and sexual content including partial nudity.

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
This is a clever and exciting, but predictable card-sharp thriller.

Additional Info:
DVD Features: Closed Caption; Disc 1 - Filmmaker commentary;
Disc 2: - Bonus digital copy of the film; Basic Strategy: A complete film journal - Making-of featurette; 21: The advantage player - The cast explains the game of blackjack and card counting; Money Plays: A tour of the good life - Featurette that explores the clothes, luxuries and locations shown in the film.

Jim Sturgess ... Ben Campbell
Kevin Spacey ... Micky Rosa
Kate Bosworth ... Jill Taylor
Aaron Yoo ... Choi
Liza Lapira ... Kianna
Jacob Pitts ... Fisher
Laurence Fishburne ... Cole Williams
Jack McGee ... Terry "Reservoir Dogs"
Josh Gad ... Miles Connoly "Razortooth"
Sam Golzari ... Cam "American Dreamz"
Jack Gilpin ... Bob Phillips "The Notorious Bettie Page"

Jim Sturgess plays Ben Campbell ("Across the Universe"), one of the smartest M.I.T. students ever. He has a 4.0 average, got a 1590 SAT score, and is headed to Harvard Medical School. His mom has some money, but nowhere near the $300,000 he needs for his four years of graduate study. With some reluctance, he gets involved in a plan by his math professor, Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey "American Beauty"), a creative teacher whose blackboards are filled with formulas but whose favorite formula is devising ways of beating the Las Vegas casinos. With college seniors Jill (Kate Bosworth "Superman Returns"), Choi (Aaron Yoo "Disturbia"), Kianna (Liza Lapira "LA Blues") and Fisher (Jacob Pitts "EuroTrip"), Ben flies on weekends to Las Vegas where he and his team engage in card-counting and signaling making the action at the blackjack tables look as exciting as the activity on a baseball or football field. Their only worry is the casino's security team that they know is watching dozens of screens upstairs, particularly the menacing Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne "Akeelah and the Bee"); not to mention their own raw emotions. But problems arise on one fateful night when Ben gets carried away and disregards the signals from his teammates.

The screenplay has been adapted from Ben Mezrichï ("Bringing Down the House"} about the actual M.I.T. students who won millions of dollars at the Vegas casinos during the 1990's. Ben is the most interesting character, who morphs from an straight -arrow student working for eight dollars an hour in a clothing store, to a full-scale bon vivant, recognized and treated with deference by the staff at the casinos. But things turn sour when Ben is caught and taken, along with his partner to a remote location, and beaten severely. He quickly learns that his counting, though not illegal, will not be tolerated by the casinos, demonstrating why they pay so much for their security systems.

Although there are some holes in the story, Australian-born director Robert Luketic ("Legally Blonde") has made an exciting movie, with a fine ensemble cast. The energy and excitement of winning in Vegas is captured, but finally overdone in an extended montage. Jim Sturgess conveys the genius innocent believably enough so that the long-shot romance with the ravishing Kate Bosworth comes within the realm of possibility. She is continuously stunning and keeps the sexual tension up, just by being there. Kevin Spacey plays the good bad-guy for all its worth, perhaps with a bit too much intensity. The score, pulsing with energy features a Rolling Stones remix of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," to amplify the film's message, making this a clever and exciting, but predictable little thriller.

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