Movie Review: 21 (2008)

By Mike

September 3, 2008 Movies Reviews No comments

One of the first things I figured would happen when I saw the movie 21 was that I’d get to find out just how badly they changed the original story from the book, Bringing Down the House. I read it a few years back and was just astounded by how these guys took Vegas casinos for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After some brief research before writing this review, I discovered that it really didn’t matter what the final screenplay ended up being for 21 because the book itself apparently butchered more than the film ever could.

There was a story in the Boston Globe about the book written by Ben Mezrich and from it you realize just how little was true in that amazing tale of stuffing cash down pants and getting beat up behind casinos.

And with that fact come to light, I decided to forego the inevitable task of comparing the two, and just talk about the movie itself.

Which was quite entertaining actually.

Jim Sturgess plays Ben Campbell, a student at MIT who is about to get into Harvard Medical, but has no way to afford the $300,000 it will cost him over the next four or so years.

Lucky for him, Kevin Spacey is a professor who leads a group of smart kids who know how to count cards, and enlist a very clever system to know when to hit a Blackjack table with large bets.

The way it works is simple in its essence: One person sits down, counts cards and never bets more than the minimum. When the count gets high (meaning lots of low cards have been played), they signal in the Big Player, who jumps in, drops hundreds and thousands of dollars in bets, and walks away with a bundle of chips.

Campbell is recruited because he’s a math genius and a total natural at counting cards. He’s soon whisked off on his first weekend trip to Las Vegas and comes home $16,000 richer.

From there his life gets crazy and while the money gets better, the problems surrounding him and his new lifestyle get worse.

As I said above, this was a fun, entertaining movie. That’s not to say it didn’t have some big faults. There were quite a few overdone scenes, that were placed in front of us just for effect. Like when all these players, who are supposed to be incognito and not know each other, suddenly all get up and walk out of the casino together.

My other beef was with the crazy “arms crossed behind the chair at the blackjack table signal.” I mean, you could be working your first week on casino security and not miss that suspicious act.

Kate Bosworth was also in the movie, as the love interest for Sturgess. I read prior to the movie’s release that the big sex scene was so nerve-racking for the two actors they got totally trashed before filming it.

Which made you think it had to be awesome. Think again. It was over…uhh, quickly.

Aside from the few things I mentioned, the movie is good fun. The plot is cool, there is a nice little twist and the Blackjack scenes are fairly good.

Mike’s Rating: 7 out of 10