Thursday, October 2, 2008


I am no genius but I kinda liked Mathematics. So when a movie comes out that centres on using Mathematics skills to win in Black Jack, I don't even bother who will be in it. I am just going to watch it.
Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a Maths genius hoping to secure a scholarship to Harward Medical School as his USD8 perhour part time job simply isn't enough to pay for that education. That amount however, is still higher than what an average Malaysian is making on a full-time basis but enough about our country's economy.

As with all the geniuses depicted in any movie, Campbell doesn't has many friends, often only hanging out with two other people who though are pretty smart, are only half his genius and 1/3 his good look. These two friends and Campbell's mother are the only people present to celebrate his very tame 21st birthday. The birthday scene was a crucial one as they used the Fibonacci code to depicted the number 21 on the cake so audiences can see what geeky maths geniuses they are. That was when I realised this is going to be a mediocre movie.

Campbell's lives started to changed when he impressed his non-linear equation professor by explaining how eliminating a wrong option from a choice of three actually increased the probability of one of the remaining two to 66.66% being the correct option instead of just 50%. That is called variable changes.

I didn't get that either.

As it turned out, Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) is looking exactly for someone of his genius as he is leading a team of clever students to win big money in Las Vegas via card counting. He was looking for a replacement for a key member who left the team for a job in Google, which is really funny if you received an email showing the office in Google. Everyone wants to work for them now.

Back to the story, honest Campbell does not wish to get involved but when his mother gave her hard-earned life saving to help pay for his Harvard education, he decided that Vegas is the only way to go. Campbell joined the team, which coincidently included Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), the prettiest girl in campus whom he happened to has the hots for.

Campbell was determined to do this only until he raised enough money for Harvard but the question is, after he get a taste of the high life of easy wealth, can he really go back? Can a brilliant student making money from simple Maths skill still thinks about using his genius for the betterment of mankind? Would a CEO enjoying privileges paid for by the company opts to gives up that luxury to reduces expenditures? Will a politician with power to reform policy to suits his own personal interest chose to repents and steps down?

The answer is a dissolute no, unless someone makes them.

That someone comes in the form of security honcho, Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) who quickly caught on to what Campbell can do. But he isn't as interested in Campbell as he is in Rosa, with whom he has an old grundge.

The movie has a decent story and characters, which is played well enough by its casts but everything about it is pretty run of the mill. It is a pretty standard fare of a hero using his gift for personal gains only to learn the wrongness of his action and turned over a new leaf. And audiences are taught a little lesson not to belittle those smarts geeks around us as we never know just what they may be capable of.

It is also interesting that the movie actually revealed how card counting works although I don't quite understand it. Maybe the instruction isn't complete but more probably is that I am just not smart enough to get it. There is also the phrase "Winner winner, Chicken dinner", uttered everytime a player got a Black Jack which meaning and significance escaped me but which I find catchy.

Here's a Mathematics question. Is it worth paying to watch this movie? I paid RM6 to watch this on Wednesday and I pretty much get my worth but RM10 for any other day just may noy be worth its fare. Now how is that for non linear equation?

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