2008-06-19 09:21
What it's about:

Based on real-life events and the novel "Bringing Down the House", the story begins when MIT student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is recruited by his brilliant college professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) into a lucrative Black Jack card counting operation. With the help of five fellow students, Ben quickly masters the art and hiding behind disguises the group jet off every weekend to Las Vegas to take on the world's biggest casinos. But while counting cards isn't technically illegal, casino bouncer Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) is hot on the trail of the profiting students and plans on enforcing the old school "rule of fist" on anyone pocketing too much of his employer's earnings.

What we thought of it:

Ten years after the making of the cult hit Rounders and following in the footsteps of Danny Ocean's team, a new generation of high-stakes gamblers have emerged. And they're bright, ballsy and extremely brainy.

21 follows the typical "little man beating the system" (i.e. cash-strapped students winning from money-grubbing casinos) sketch, incorporating what has become the usual alluring Vegas bells and whistles and a few plot twists to hold back boredom. But while the script isn't as polished as the team's disguises, edgy directing from Robert Luketic (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! 2004 and Legally Blonde 2001), and slick post-production editing creates a shifting pace that holds your attention.

Luketic knows his audience and how to hook the MTV/20-something generation visually as well as thematically. He plays up the age-old David vs. Goliath sentiment and plays to the megalomania of young adults (who believe card counting can be mastered in weeks instead of years) while glamourising the allure of high-stakes gambling.

Although the real life characters were Asian-American males, Columbia Pictures cast caucasian actors in the lead roles – a point of contention among Asian Americans who accuse studio executives of racism. Jim Sturgess has that geeky charm and vulnerability that wins audiences' sympathy (even when he's being an ego maniac), while Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne effortlessly cruise through their scenes. The non-caucasian leads Aaron Yoo and Liza Lapira secure just enough screen time to deliver semi-rounded characters, and even Kate Bosworth generates enough shimmer and tinsel (at least a lot for a stick insect) to keep warm-blooded males happy.

21 isn't the most realistic gambling movie ever produced (are there any?), but casinos might see a rise in their Black Jack business. Look at what Rounders did for the popularity of Texas Hold 'Em…

- Megan Kakora

Get published on Channel24! Send us your movie, music and live gig reviews and columns and get published on Channel24. Send your articles to PublishMe@sa.24.com.
A racy casino drama of cat and mouse card games that's very loosely based on real life events. Not to be taken too seriously if you're a seasoned Black Jack player.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.