21 is loosely based on the
best-selling book “Bringing Down the House“, by Ben Mezrich,
about a group of MIT student who go to Vegas and make a
killing counting cards. However, the movie’s basic premises
isn’t that much different than that of “Risky Business”
where an inexperience Joel Goodsen, played by Tom Cruise get
a crash course in life experience by running a sort of
In 21, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is our Joel Goodsen. His
sheltered life as the smart well behaved kid has gotten him
into MIT and Harvard medical school, but he lacks a real
life experience. Harvard won’t grant him the $300,000
scholarship, because while he does have the grades his life
story does not dazzle. In other words. he’s just other smart
kid, who haven’t done anything or taken any risk.
While he gathers the money to pay for Harvard, working an $8
an hour job, he attends MIT and spends time with his other
nerdy friends: Miles Connolly (Josh Gad), who looks and acts
like Jonah Hills’ nerdy brother, and Cam (Sam Golzari).
Ben stands out in his math class and is notices by his
professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) who approaches Ben
about joining his math club: a card counting crew made up of
four other students: Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), Fisher
(Jacob Pitts), Choi (Aaron Yoo) and Kianna (Liza Lapira).
Ben refuses, but soon joins, when Jill, the girl of his
dreams, lurking him in. Soon Ben is flying every weekend to
Vegas and making more money than he could ever imagine. That
is until Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) a security
consultant for the casino, who business is near extinction
because of facial recognition software, gets in his way.
If this film were a mixture between “Risky Business” and “Rounders“,
it could have been a classic, but it ends up just being
ordinary. The pacing of the movie is off and the movie runs
about ten minutes too long. All around, all the actors did a
good job. Kevin Spacey was great, but he has gotten use to
playing all his characters in the same way, expect for the
short time that he is in disguise and speaks with a southern
drool. That was brilliant! Lauren Fishburne was the best of
all and his performance was marvelous, but he doesn’t get
enough screen time. Oddly enough his character is the most
What his movie needed what a real conflict which could have
been possible if Lauren Fishburne was used more effectively.
Overall, as a piece of entertainment, it’s an acceptable
movie, but you’ll feel you got served a hamburger and fries
when what you were expecting was steak and potatoes.
By Brad Peterson
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