Ben Mezrich’s 2002 bestseller Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions was a smart narrative about . . . well, you did see the subtitle, right? It was a risky proposition for Mezrich, relying on mathletes up to their asses in cash and a complex system of counting cards to tell his tale. But the big-screen version of Mezrich’s book ain’t no gamble at all—thing’s about as risky as playing the nickel slots with 10 cents in your pocket. The filmmakers have excised the book’s genuine thrills and instead filled in the blanks with blanks, chief among them drab Jim Sturgess as a newbie among the wizened ranks of card-counters. Director Robert Luketic has pared down the story to the most hackneyed of three-act fairy tales—the whiny rise-and-fall film in which a bright young thing ditches his dorky pals and wills his way to a fortune, then loses it all in a fit of stupid hubris, then redeems himself only after his pile of cash turns to a pile of shit. He’s a schmuck with brains, a dullard with cutes—a bust, in other words, in a movie that wastes a lot of time and money and really, really shoulda stayed in Vegas.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 25, 2008