“Who wouldn’t want to go to Vegas and make a killing, not because of luck, but because you are smart about it?” These were the words that appealed to Kevin Spacey as well as the rest of the filmmakers of 21.
Inspired and loosely-based on Ben Merzich’s 2002 best selling novel BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE, 21 is a fact-based story about a group of gifted MIT students who use their math skills to ‘beat the house’ at Las Vegas casinos. Director Robert Luketic ( LEGALLY BLONDE, MONSTER-IN-LAW and WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON) ventures over into territory that is unfamiliar from the traditional romantic comedies that he is used to directing. Luketic does a good job of balancing the action of Vegas’ seductive dark side while instilling a small amount of clever and humorous moments.
Jim Sturgess does a wonderful job of portraying the role of naïve-turned-corrupt card counter Ben Campbell. One could hardly tell that he, in fact, has a British accent, he masks it well for this film. He had a wide range of emotions that he had to convey to the audience, and he conveyed them with ease and a sense of balance that wasn’t over-the-top. He held his own with the witty and sharp-tongued fearless leader of the group, Kevin Spacey.
Both Sturgess and Spacey are charismatic together on the screen. Their moments as they are waxing rhetorical over statistical logic in the classroom, and sharing intense moments over winning and losing at blackjack rang true. Kate Bosworth shares some good chemistry with Sturgess, however, it seems like she’s sorely misplaced in this group. Liza Lapira and Jacob Pitts (Kianna and Fisher, respectively) are good distinctive supporting characters, but the one supporting character of the MIT group that stands out is the brilliant, sticky-fingered kleptomaniac, Choi (played humorously by Aaron Yoo). Whenever his character is on the screen, you can guarantee that there will be some amusing moments. And last, but certainly not least, Laurence Fishburne does an outstanding job of playing the casino’s enforcer, Cole Williams, with fierce determination as the moral character with an immoral way of dealing with people who ‘cheat’ the system. The film glosses a little over Cole’s back-story and provides you with enough information to justify his actions.
Keep in mind that this is a movie that is “loosely-based” on the book BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE. One should not go in and expect an exact carbon copy of this best-selling novel, as the novel and the movie will have major differences, particularly in the characters and their nationalities. Yes, 21 is a stylized version of the book based on all the elements given by Hollywood’s standards, but nonetheless, the concept is there. It is compelling with twists and turns and has the ability to sustain the audience’s attention as we see each character’s objective and motivation clearly.
21 stars Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, Jacob Pitts and Academy Award® Nominee Laurence Fishburne and Academy Award® Winner Kevin Spacey. The script was written by Peter Steinfield and Allan Loeb and directed by Robert Luketic.
21 is rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual content, including partial nudity. Running time is 123 minutes.
For more details about 21 and to enter in Sony Pictures' simulated blackjack tournament, visit the official website at (http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/21).
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