MIT maths student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is accepted in Harvard Medical School, but cannot afford the $300.000 fee. MIT professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) seems to have chosen the most opportune moment to involve Ben in an ambitious project. With a team consisting of his best students, he wants to develop a plan to count cards and earn quick and easy money playing Blackjack in Vegas. Ben, a rather good and diligent boy, is first scared by the plan but his financial distress makes him change his mind, accept the job and travel to Vegas with the team. The plan runs perfectly and Ben’s ego and avarice grows steadily the more he gets aware of his talent for counting cards. Everything seems to run well until the start of conflicts within the team and the team starts to catch the attention of Vegas’ casino owners. Ben approaches more and more to the sum of money necessary for his studies, but counting cards is becoming increasingly dangerous for the team and the trips to Vegas develop on and on to a run for all or nothing…
This innovating heist drama directed by Robert Luketic serves us with its very clever characters and their well written dialogues. The movie has managed to create characters that I can admire for their intelligence and the plot also gives us some twists and thrilling scenes. However, these are not the big strengths of the movie. Outstanding are the character development of some roles and the quick rhythm kept throughout the film.
Ben Campbell starts in the film as a rather unpretentious, shy nerd-guy from poor conditions. He is rather reserved with his intelligence and rather shy towards unknown people. These traits keep up until his first Black Jack game. Already during the game you can see him becoming more euphoric and self-confident the more money he earns. But the team doesn’t only earn money in Vegas, they also use it to try a life in excess for a short period of time. This transforms the team, waking avarice in them and originating conflicts around a now too self-confident Ben.
Every scene playing in Vegas shows up with bright colors and glittery outfits. You can see excess everywhere in this city where people are coming and leaving in a breathtaking rhythm. This is also reflected in cut- and sound design of the movie. With modern techno music and lots of quick cuts in the most pompous scenes this film displays it’s potential and is a real eyecacher.
These two strengths of the film get equal screen time and do not stand in each others way. They much rather give a pleasant variety between calm and fast scenes for the spectator. But the film sadly also has a few weaknesses. There are some unnecessary subplots primarily concerning Ben’s private life. A love story, and problems with friendship and family creep into this movie, that actually didn’t, need any new subplots and makes the movie longer than I think it should be. Some characters as well as some twist seem quite cliche and therefore predictable. Both leading roles are played first-class by Kevin Spacey and Jim Sturgesss, but what makes the movie be a clear recommendation, is the technical delicacy that makes the movie look fresh and innovative and that it’s main plot remains interesting until the very end.