time I see John McTiernan prepping a new film, I wonder why the hell he isn’t in jail for lying to federal prosecutors about his employment of noted wiretapper-to-the-stars Anthony Pellicano. Did he ever serve time for this? Or did he get the Paris Hilton discount?

If directing a formulaic sounding thriller like High Stakes counts as some form of Hollywood work release, then welcome back to the civilian pop, McT! Now how about applying yourself and grinding out a halfway decent movie for the first time in eight years (I’m directly referencing The Thomas Crown Affair , but The 13th Warrior did have its moments)? You certainly haven’t made it easy on those of us who keep wondering if the director of Predator, Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October has one more return to form in him. Rollerball was legendarily bad (though I admire your technical experimentation, what the hell were you thinking with that night-vision sequence!?!?), and Basic offered up little more than a curiously peppy performance from John Travolta; meanwhile, McTiernan’s command of the action film vocabulary appeared to have been reduced to the visual equivalent of guttural grunts.

An independently produced picture about two friends who discover they’re human collateral in a high stakes Las Vegas bet doesn’t sound too encouraging (unless the film concludes with Robert Hays inching his way around the ledge of a hotel), but sometimes it takes a good ass-whuppin’ to jar one’s innate ability loose. Matt Rhodes is producing High Stakes for Persistent Pictures and Velvet Octopus. Ronnie Christensen – who, coincidentally, shares a last name with one of the other unlucky bastards charged in the whole, sordid Pellicanoglio – wrote the screenplay. He also wrote Passengers, a mawkish sounding plane crash melodrama directed by Rodrigo Garcia, helmer of 2005’s most insultingly simple movie, Nine Lives.