REVIEWS

21 - The Sexiest Card Playing Movie Since Rounders

by
March 27, 2008

  • US Release Date: March 28, 2008
  • Genre: Drama
  • MPAA: Rated PG-13 (for some violence, and sexual content including partial nudity)
  • Running Time: 123 minutes
  • Directed by: Robert Luketic
  • on IMDb
  •    7.5/10

There's a certain finesse that directors need to make a film about gambling in Las Vegas seem realistic and thrilling, and that's an immense challenge that not too many have been able to achieve. Blackjack is the game of choice in 21 and director Robert Luketic has made scamming casinos just as glitzy and as glamourous as in Ocean's Eleven. While not particularly as unforgettable as Steven Soderbergh's remake, 21 can be best summed up in a quote from Laurence Fishburne, who told me at a party the night before the premiere that 21 "is just a sexy movie." He's right.

Based on Ben Mezrich's bestselling novel Bringing Down the House, 21 is about MIT math genius Ben Campbell's (Jim Sturgess) adventure into the world of blackjack card counting. Ben is in dire need of $300,000, or a full-ride scholarship, to get into Harvard Medical school. Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) has an unusual club at MIT: on weekends, Micky flies the "MIT Blackjack Club" to Las Vegas where four members count cards at the blackjack tables and bet strategically to make thousands of dollars. The casinos start to catch on as the money flows away from them, and security pro Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) begins to uncover Micky's elaborate scheme.

When in Las Vegas, don't mess with Cole Williams, he'll hunt you down if he finds you counting cards as his tables.21 Review

If you're not familiar with card counting, or blackjack at all, then thankfully 21 gives you a brief introduction - well, to a point. Face cards are assigned a value of -1 and low numbers a value of +1. Micky's players keep a running tally of these point values as cards are dealt at their tables. When a table is "hot," at a count of +15 or more, a player signals for the lead to come in and begin playing. Luketic does not explain the system in complete detail, but it suffices to say that keeping track of hot tables gives the MIT Blackjack Club a significant advantage when making big bets. Unfortunately as an avid card player myself, this lack of further explanation pulled me out of the film, as I kept wondering what exactly was happening.

21 is fun because of its carefree style and attitude, despite its rather rickety story. Other gambling-themed movies like Lucky You treat gaming as dry, boring time-filler, but Luketic adds vivid colors and looks and even speeds up the time around Ben as he plays in 21. The result is something that I'd definitely call "sexy" and is above all entertaining. The style will enthrall even casual gamblers and keeps the story rolling along.

Ben Campbell leads the team along with his beautiful sidekick Jill Taylor as they hit the blackjack tables in 21.21 Review

Ben is actually an Asian kid in Mezrich's novel, but for the movie his character was changed to accommodate Jim Sturgess. As much as I admire Sturgess as an actor, he just didn't fit the part. I don't blame Sturgess for this; I take exception with the producers for using a young, good-looking British actor rather than staying true to the source material. On top of that, ex-Lex Luthor Kevin Spacey also felt a bit out of place as the mastermind here. However, Kate Bosworth and Aaron Yoo filled in the gaps and surprised me with their ability to make up for the otherwise rough casting choices of Sturgess and Spacey.

21, while not the must-see movie of the year, is a fun weekend film that card players like myself can kick back and enjoy. It is flawed in a few places, but if you enjoy the glitz and glamour of Vegas gaming, you'll walk out of it with a smile on your face - not only because the action was fun to watch, but because the reveal at the end is a damn good one.

Find more posts in Movie Reviews

Discover more around the web:

Loading...
  • I haven't see "21" yet but I'd be willing to bet that "The Grand" is a better card movie.
  • craziemutant
    planning to see it saturday. we'll see how it goes.
  • Heckle
    I agree Marina but.....The Grand is hardly showing anywhere.
  • Heckle - "The Grand" is currently in limited release. It opens wider expanding to a load more cities on April 4th and 11th. Loads of details here.
  • Lips
    April 11th? Sorry, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall has my vote that week.
  • craziemutant
    um...i thought sarah marshall has an april 18th release...
  • craziemutant
    this was such a fun movie. i enjoyed it. it WAS sexy! haha. it's a great watch, i'd recommend it.
  • Heckle
    go to http://www.myspace.com/heckle0 for some pics of our blackjack night at the 21 premiere

FEATURED POSTS

POPULAR COMMENTS

OUR FAVORITES

Alex's Top 10 - 2016
1. La La Land
2. Paterson
3. Arrival
4. Captain Fantastic
5. 20th Cent. Women
6. Pete's Dragon
7. Jackie
8. Kubo & Two Strings
9. Everybody Wants
10. Wilderpeople
Click Here for Thoughts

Jeremy's Top 10 - 2016
1. Moonlight
2. The Handmaiden
3. High-Rise
4. Elle
5. Arrival
6. Kubo & Two Strings
7. 13th
8. Jackie
9. Toni Erdmann
10. The Witch
Click Here for Thoughts

FOLLOW US HERE

Subscribe to our feed or daily newsletter:
Follow Alex's main profile on twitter:
For the news posts only, follow this acct:
Add our feed to your Feedly: follow us in feedly

FACEBOOK + LINKS