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Winning Streak

A disappointingly straight-ahead take on one family's high-risk attempt to get rich by beating the casinos.

With:
With: Daniel Bruehl, Blanca Suarez, Lluis Homar, Eduard Fernandez, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Marina Salas, Oriol Vila, Vicente Romero, Mark Ullod, Hui Chi Chiu. (Spanish, French, Mandarin dialogue)

“Ocean’s Eleven” tries to become a Hispanic “Magnificent Seven” in “Winning Streak,” a disappointingly straight-ahead take on one family’s high-risk attempt to get rich by beating the casinos. Despite its terrific real-life storyline, a couple of fine perfs and slick visuals, the pic stumbles in its eagerness to please all comers, failing to generate much real tension and leaving its characters as flat as poker chips. Early domestic B.O. has been solid, suggesting that “Streak” could be of offshore interest as a family-friendly get-rich-quick fantasy for these troubled economic times.

After years of trying to work out a system to legally beat his local casino, run by the Beast (the reliable Eduard Fernandez), Gonzalo (Lluis Homar) finally reckons he’s cracked it, using a system based on wheel bias. He drags his family in to help: singer son Ivan (Daniel Bruehl), daughter Vanessa (Marina Salas), their cousins Marcos (Oriol Vila) and muscle-bound Alfredo (Miguel Angel Silvestre), and family friend Balon (Vicente Romero).

Driven by Ivan’s desire to give his Dad a decent old age, the gang sets to work, at first unsuccessfully. But when they start winning, the Beast’s suspicions are aroused, and he puts a private detective onto them. Alfredo compromises the plan by getting involved with croupier Ingrid (Blanca Suarez), who is summarily fired by the Beast. Next, Ivan strikes up a will-they-or-won’t-they romance with Chinese wild girl Shui (Hui Chi Chiu), whose friends turn out to be quite handy later on.

The large cast has the daunting task of fleshing out characters from outlines, but only the vets succeed: Fernandez as the creepily muttering Beast, and Homar, painting Gonzalo as an interesting blend of mad ambition and paternal kindliness. A low-key, intense showdown between the two is by some distance the pic’s best scene.

Having previously done good, subtle work in a quieter key (“Nobody’s Life”), helmer Eduard Cortes seems to be struggling to dumb down here. Things are fine as long as they’re breathless and busy, which they mostly are, but when the pace slows, everything goes dead, and the general lack of chemistry between the members of this potentially fascinating family becomes apparent. Despite moments of wit, the dialogue seems to have been drawn from other movies rather than from life, while comic setpieces are clumsily overblown.

The often showy camerawork makes sections of the pic look too much like videoclips. Shameless use is made of the physical ripples and curves of both Silvestre and Suarez in ways that will keep teens smiling but advance the story not one iota. Music, whether songs or Micka Luna’s overblown score, is virtually omnipresent.

Winning Streak

Spain

Production: A Sony Pictures Releasing release of an Alea Docs & Films, Bausan Films, the Kraken Films, Afrodita Films production in association with TVE, Canal Plus. (International sales: Film Factory Entertainment, Barcelona.) Produced by Daniel Hernandez, Loris Omedes. Executive producers, Pablo Uson, Enric Jorba, Gustavo Ferrada, Javier Ares, Julio Piedra. Directed by Eduard Cortes. Screenplay, Cortes, Piti Espanol.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), David Omedes; editor, Koldo Idigoras; music, Micka Luna; art director, Balter Gallart; costume designer, Myriam Ibanez; sound (Dolby Digital), Daniel de Zayas. Reviewed at Cines Albeniz, Malaga, April 21, 2012. (In Malaga Film Festival -- opener.) Running time: 101 MIN.

With: With: Daniel Bruehl, Blanca Suarez, Lluis Homar, Eduard Fernandez, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Marina Salas, Oriol Vila, Vicente Romero, Mark Ullod, Hui Chi Chiu. (Spanish, French, Mandarin dialogue)

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