Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones are the big names in this soft-boiled caper from Stephen Frears, but it's Rebecca Hall who takes centre stage as an exotic dancer seeking her fortune in Vegas. She shows gumption, just as she did in 2011 thriller The Awakening, and adds to that a bit of sass. What a shame then, that she's short-changed by a patchy script.
The story is based on a memoir by Beth Raymer and there's a feeling that much has been glossed over regarding her early misadventures in the sex trade. A couple of private lap dances and the flash of a gun have Beth running for the hills, or more specifically, the Nevada desert where second chances are plentiful.
Initially, Beth comes across as a bit of a bimbo (the 30-year-old Hall trying to pass it off as the naiveté of youth), but bookie and professional gambler Dink (Bruce Willis) recognises her knack for numbers. She illustrates this by reorganising the letters of any word into alphabetical order, but beyond that, Frears doesn't offer much convincing evidence of her talent.
Of course Beth is pretty and that helps, along with Dink's superstitious belief that she brings him good luck - that is until his brassy wife Tulip (a surprisingly endearing Zeta-Jones) claps eyes on her. Beth has no qualms about trying to steal Dink away from Tulip, but refreshingly, he resists and politely gives Beth her marching orders.
The pace picks up after Beth goes to work for one of Dink's loud-mouthed protégés Rosie (who else but Vince Vaughn?) and yet the story doesn't really go anywhere. Rosie's fast-and-loose approach threatens to land Beth behind bars and her new beau too (Joshua Jackson), but the intricate machinations of the plot are clumsily handled.
Beth keeps reminding us that she's great with numbers and 'working the angles', but because Frears doesn't share the formula of her success (as in the true-life 2008 thriller 21) it begins to look more and more like her greatest gift is merely of the gab. Her romance with Jeremy (a bland Joshua Jackson) doesn't add up either, except that he's the standard Mr Nice Guy.
The affection between Beth and Dink feels a lot more genuine, with Willis delivering a finely tuned performance somewhere between temperamental and quietly tortured. Hall (a promising Brit talent) bounces off him with comically goggle-eyed expressions - adoring and fearful in equal measure - but their banter could have been more sharply written.
This is one of those comedies where, actually, nothing very funny happens. Frears relies on colourful characters to keep us smiling, but while they are likeable, they don't have room to evolve. They're all decent people who just like a bit of mischief - or as Willis puts it, "gonif, Yiddish for small-time loveable thief" - and with so little room for growth, there's no point in investing.