Just like that hand at the gambler’s table where you’re confident you’ve got a sure thing, 21 craps out leaving you wondering how it all went so wrong.
Based on actual events, 21 is the tale of five MIT students who master the skill of counting cards and take Las Vegas casinos for millions. With a cast including big name talents two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne, the possibilities are endless for an exciting and entertaining film.
Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a math whiz and his emotionless demeanor in calculating statistics catches the eye of his professor, Micky (Spacey), who promptly recruits him to join his secret society of blackjack students.
Ben just wants enough to pay for Harvard Medical School. Unfortunately for Ben, avoiding the temptation to earn more money proves to be harder than any hand of blackjack. The actors handle their end and Sturgess makes for a solid leading man of the less serious, MTV-style nature.
Director Robert Luketic is a big fan of holding the audience’s hand to ensure that they get the point. Watching the team run the tables one night doesn’t become any more exciting the next three times.
Allan Loeb and Peter Seinfeld’s script is similarly frustrating as the “smart” people make some really stupid mistakes like going to the same casinos over and over enough to be targeted by security expert Cole Williams (Fishburne), who has his own vicious methods of dealing with card counters. Then the film further folds with an unnecessary last second twist that was one of those twists so telegraphed you’d wish Luketic really swerved audiences by going in a different direction.
The climatic scene isn’t some high-risk game, but rather a ludicrous chase scene through a casino and it becomes clear that Luketic just can’t salvage anything and it’s time for the audience to count their losses — in this case one movie ticket and two long hours. Sure you won’t go bankrupt, but you’re better off sticking with the penny slots of network TV than wasting time with 21.
Rating: 3 out of 10