'21' aces do deal with 2929

Pair of Mezrich books make way to big screen

2929 Prods. is doubling down with Dana Brunetti and Kevin Spacey of Trigger Street Prods. and author Ben Mezrich, picking up two projects from the team behind the gambling hit "21."

First up is "Ugly Americans," based on Mezrich's 2004 nonfiction book. The story centers on an American who takes a job in Hong Kong with an investment banker and realizes his boss is in cahoots with organized crime and is embezzling from the company — a situation even more precarious when he finds himself promoted to become his boss' right-hand man. Robert Schenkkan wrote the initial adaptation. 2929 picked up "Rules" from DreamWorks in turnaround.

The second project, "Q," is set in a near future when the U.S. government goes into lockdown when an epidemic breaks out. "Q" is based on a book by Mezrich to be published in the fall. The novel is based on actual but little-known draconian quarantine laws.

Brunetti and Spacey are producing via Trigger Street. 2929 is financing.

"Ben writes page-turners for guys," Brunetti said. "Guys that normally aren't readers will dive into a Ben Mezrich story and read it quickly, and then pass it around to other guys. It's chick lit for men."

Brunetti said male readers relate to Mezrich's rags-to-riches tales and ways to beat the system themes.

"21," with a budget in the high-$30 million range, is based on Mezrich's nonfiction tome "Bringing Down the House." The Sony release has grossed more than $75 million domestically and more than $100 million worldwide. (partialdiff)