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Wed March 26, 2008
No Will Hunting
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"There are two great pleasures in gambling: that of winning and that of losing." French proverb
There has to be an easier way to finance Harvard Medical School than being beaten up by Laurence Fishburne's Cole Williams in your gig as a blackjack card counter in Las Vegas. But genius MIT senior Ben (Jim Sturgess) is recruited by charismatic math professor Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey) to join a team of five other MIT brainiacs, who don't make the casinos happy when detectives such as Williams figure out their scam.
Director Robert Luketic's 21, based on the true story of six MIT students who took Vegas for millions, should give an inside insight into this high-stakes world, but in fact the only high is the number of quick-cuts that keep us from any access to either side of the game. The disappointingly slow plot (even the Ocean's franchise is more interesting, and certainly more glamorous) plods rather than crackles?I found MIT's Will Hunting (Matt Damon) story more engaging, and he didn't even go to Vegas.
Undeniably watchable as always is Kevin Spacey's Mickey, with an icy confidence compromised only by a silly denouement finding this brilliant gamester reduced to clich?s about a turn of fortune that comes too quickly to a stats guy, who in real life could have seen what was coming by just remembering not numbers but the eye in the sky at casinos. Cool Danny Ocean (cool George Clooney) he is not; Lex Luthor he should channel.
The glittering neon of Vegas is well represented, but the new day of computer facial profiling replacing house dicks is unfortunately underdeveloped, leaving some old-fashioned roughing rather than new-fangled software to carry the tension. The famous clich? about naughtiness staying in Vegas could apply to this tepid tease of a drama: Leave it in Las Vegas.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com