Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a shy student who needs to pay his tuition fees, and is soon introduced to other students who have formed a gambling club under the guidance of their maths and stastics professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey). Ben is particularly interested in a female member – Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth).
Counting cards isn’t illegal, but the team has to work hard to keep one step ahead of the casino’s enforcer Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne).
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BY Andreas Heinemann Flicks Writer
Unfortunately, no. The reworking of the actual events takes the most predictable, generic route possible and short changes the inherent drama and excitement of the story they are telling, so much so that the plot accurately unfolds in your mind about five minutes before it does on screen. They can’t even get the cookie cutter, everyman hero right. Ben Campbell (Jim Sturges, Across the Universe) is clearly intended to be the protagonist we can all relate too, because we all aspire to attend Harvard due to our mathematical prowess, right? No matter, he can come across as delightfully dull, that’ll bring him down to our level. He can be in love with an unattainable girl- Kate Bosworth, playing a fellow brainiac, which is admittedly unintentionally funny at first. As for visual style, think a whole lot of flashy music video techniques that are somewhat impressive but ultimately contribute nothing. If it’s a visual metaphor for the gaudy but shallow world of Las Vegas, it only works on a level that reinforces the suspicion that the film you are watching is empty of real emotion and ideas, so kind of pointless in the end.
It’s not all terrible. Spacey as the manipulative mentor and Laurence Fishburne as the casino security specialist are both great characters well acted by two talented veterans. Had the film been built around the long simmering conflict between these two it could have been more engrossing. The finale is also an exciting action set piece, although it’s counterproductive to the cautionary tale that the plot seemed to be aiming for until that point. In a way, it best sums up how 21 can’t decide if it wants to be a fun popcorn flick like Oceans 11 or a stylish examination of greed and power like Casino. It ends up failing at both.
The conclusion has Ben asking his Harvard interviewer, “Did I dazzle you? Did I jump off the page?” No you didn’t Ben, you left me decidedly under-whelmed. Now get the hell out of my office.
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Jim Sturgess is going places and 21 is a solid step in the right direction. He holds his own alongside the likes of Spacey and Fishburne, guys who are far more experienced and established than him. Spacey - as always - is cool, calm and collected while Bosworth’s role is limited to say the least.
I would be lying if I said this was an amazing film, but I wouldn’t hesitate to stand up for 21 if it were badmouthed. Aside from one or two moments which broke from its slick, smart style, 21 is definitely a thrilling ride and worthy of its fair share of praise.Hide
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