2012 Running time: 94 Certificate: 12 Not yet rated

Synopsis

Rebecca Hall is a hot tip in hotpants as Beth Raymer, a former stripper who lands a job in Vegas laying bets for professional sports gambler Dink Heimowitz (Bruce Willis). The relationship works like a charm... until the intervention of Dink's jealous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) leaves Beth mired in some much riskier business with a reckless New York bookie (Vince Vaughn). Two decades after his last dabble in the betting world, director Stephen Frears finds a much more amiable set of grifters to deal with in this breezy adaptation of the real Beth's memoir.

Director

  • Stephen Frears

Cast

  • Rebecca Hall

  • Bruce Willis

  • Catherine Zeta-Jones

  • Vince Vaughn

  • Joshua Jackson

Review

You might expect a cool cast and the director of The Grifters to be odds-on to pull off a flashy Vegas caper. Don't bet on it.

Handicapped in all stakes - comedic, dramatic and romantic - this truth-based story of a gambler's moll is a non-starter from the off.

Still, it does give Rebecca Hall the chance to shed her English inhibitions in the sort of role that would have been the reserve of Marisa Tomei or Melanie Griffith, back when online betting was a glint in William Hill's eye.

Hall plays Beth, a private dancer who quits the stripping game to seek her fortune in Las Vegas.

Although it's not immediately obvious, atop this excitable bundle of yips and tanned flesh lies a head for numbers.

Through a fellow stripper/waitress/whatever, she thus lands a job as a runner for Dink (Willis), a pro-gambler whose operation involves the "completely legitimate" manipulation of sports betting odds. She turns out to be his lucky charm.

Unfortunately, Dink's high-maintenance wife Tulip (Zeta-Jones) is the opposite, a jealous jinx who puts an end to their winning streak - and their cosy partnership.

But you make your own luck and Beth is soon back in the game in New York with a new boyfriend - mild-mannered journalist Jeremy (the practically redundant Joshua Jackson) - and a new business partner in fast-and-loose bookie Rosie (Vaughn).

So all's well until a rogue punter (John Carroll Lynch, one of those guys you recognise from loads of stuff but never remember what) starts going down and looks like taking everyone else with him.

As you'd expect, it all rides on one climactic throw of the dice (or in this case, ball). But by that time, all that's left is small change. And an overwhelming sense of apathy.

From Frears' flat direction to performances as thin as a betting slip, almost everyone involved appears to be working on the clock.

To be fair, nobody is helped by a script devoid of laughs, depth or tension.

Zeta-Jones flounces around like a diva from a bad soap opera who's about to be written out of the show, while the rest of the cast have both eyes fixed solely on the pay cheque.

The one exception is Hall, whose gambolling is the film's saving grace. But even then, her hotpants are so tight its difficult to tell which end her constant squeals are coming from. At least she's trying.

She needn't have bothered. Frears and Willis don't. Vaughn rarely does. Jackson must wonder why he did. You'll just wish you hadn't.