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Stars: Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Robert Luketic

Film-making by numbers. Ben (Sturgess), a maths genius, is approached by his college professor (Spacey) to join a team of students who, with false identities, regularly take Las Vegas to the cleaners at blackjack (pontoon to us), with a complex system that involves counting the cards.

This is apparently legal, although anyone caught still gets beaten up by casino heavies bossed by Fishburne.

Ben, who needs money to get into Harvard Medical, soon finds himself drawn in. Consumed by gambling and the dishy girl (Bosworth) who's part of the team, Ben neglects his friends and supplies the wrong equipment for the science project they're hoping will win them a competition.

Unlikely events then become necessary to move the plot forward. Ben's rival on the team must get drunk and almost blow their cover to enable Ben to take over the lead, and Ben himself must ignore signals to quit, in his fever to regain losses. There are some predictable twists to follow before a forced happy ending for everyone but Spacey, who has had the temerity to take the 2000,000 dollars Ben owes him from the stash in the latter's ceiling. And why does Spacey take all 315,000 dollars when he's not owed it? Makes no sense.

Bland Brit Sturgess can be congratulated on his American accent if not much else. Even so, he has more personality than Bosworth, or the colourless other members of the team. The action lacks urgency. Bring back The Cincinnati Kid.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour by deluxe.
122 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 05 Apr 2008