21

21

(2008)
Based on the fact-based story of six brilliant MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) students who used an intricate mathematical technique to count cards at Vegas casinos and win themselves millions of dollars.

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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Flicks Review

The true story of MIT whiz kids who developed a system to take Las Vegas blackjack tables for all they were worth gets the big screen make over in 21. Under the tutelage of college professor and former card counter extraordinaire Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey), five college kids battle not only the mathematical odds, but Vegas security, internal divisions and their own mentor in this flick about gambling’s highs and lows. The cast and filmmakers have a juicy piece of source material to work with, but can their adaptation match the giddy thrills of gambling in the real world?

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.


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 8 ratings, 8 reviews
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BY munchkin superstar

A very good tale about young people being used by there teacher for monetary gain for there uncanny capability for counting cards and what happens when they get caught


I believe that 21 is a movie that few can tolerate more than once. It has an amazing storyline but you need quite a large attention span to enjoy it to its full potential.


It is a very entertaining film which delves into a world that most of us can only dream about: the high stakes environment of card counting in the game of blackjack. But although it features an impressive cast who all well-and-truly step up to the task, the film tends to fall back a couple of times onto cheap gags which would be more at home in a Rob Schneider flick, which seriously dents the style of it overall. Token slapstick like falling down stairs while perving at hot girls should never... More have made the final cut, it really is way too basic for this film. Possibly this is director Luketic’s hand carrying over from his breezy previous comedies Legally Blonde and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. Apart from these cheaper moments, the film plays out smoothly and stylishly, moving easily from the Boston university environment to the bright lights of Vegas where the action takes place.

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


this movie is kwl and about cards and 21 and stuff. it is very 21ish. we liked this movie and hope to c u again soon. lolage kotl sweet as bro
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All in all this movie bombed
GAMBLING is bad havent you seen those gambling ads on T.V. it wrecks familys you should be ashamed of yourselves!


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The Press Reviews

36% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • BBC

    Luketic shoots the action at the tables with the requisite flashiness, boldly defying the laws of probability to make mathematics sexy. Full Review

  • The strong performances and fascinating plot still shine through the slack pace and predictable plotting, but with a little more artistic ambition this could have been something special. Full Review

  • The Ocean’s Eleven: The College Years mood makes for a breezy good time, even if there is, like Vegas, precious little substance beneath the glitz. Full Review

  • The human-interest complications are unconvincing and Spacey himself, I'm afraid, is a lugubrious and deadening presence. Full Review

  • There are some very funny moments, a nice twist or two and solid performances from Spacey (who doesn't have to do much to steal a scene), Fishburne and Sturgess, but overall, as hard as it might try, 21 is a few cards short of a winning hand. Full Review

  • There are moments where Spacey and Bosworth have their fun in spite of the film -- they both adopt Southern "characters" as disguises at one point, which is a hoot -- but overall, 21 is a busted hand. Full Review

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