The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

21

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Judy Thorburn

"21" - Stacks Up To Be A Winner

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"21" - STACKS UP TO BE A WINNER

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

It’s a given that almost everyone who comes to Las Vegas would love to strike it rich at the casino tables. It’s called gambling and odds are, for the average person, walking away with the mother load isn’t in the cards, pun intended. That will never stop millions of people from visiting the gambling capital of the world every year and betting their hard earned cash in the exciting and flashy Las Vegas casino environment. Win or lose, there is nothing like that experience.

Of course, it’s human nature to want to beat the system at its own game. But most of us avoid trying something that could get us in a whole lot of trouble. No plan is fool proof. Ask the group of real life M.I.T. students who devised a card counting scheme to take Las Vegas for millions; that is, until they got caught. Their true story was documented in Ben Mezrich’s best selling book “Bringing Down the House”, the inspiration for 21, written by Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb who utilized a great deal of creative license in adapting the story to the big screen. About the only thing left in tact is the basic premise.

As any card player knows 21 is another name for blackjack, the most popular card game in the world. For Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess, the breakout star of last year’s Across the Universe) the movie’s central character, the number also represents a turning point in his life in more ways than one.

Having just reached his twenty first birthday, shy and brilliant M.I.T. student, Ben wants more than anything to go to Harvard medical school when he graduates. Unless he dazzles Harvard’s dean of admission with some “life experience” that leaps off the page to earn him the Robinson scholarship, he needs to come up with $300,000 for tuition fees and living expenses in order to attend the school. Earning $8 an hour as assistant manager at a men’s clothing store, just won’t cut it. But something else is sure to do the trick, if he plays his cards right (okay, another pun intended).

Conveniently, Ben catches the attention of his shrewd math professor, Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey, one of the film’s co-producers, back in fine form playing a “snake”, something he is soooo good at embodying) who sees that Ben has what it takes to join the select group of students he’s recruited. As their ringleader and brains behind the group, Mickey has taught these special students a system of counting cards, along with key words and secret body signals in order to turn the odds at blackjack in their favor. And by employing this system in addition to disguises they’ve been able to stay under the radar and win big on weekend trips to Las Vegas.

Initially Ben refuses the offer to join the team until pretty blonde, Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth) the girl he’s had his eye on in gym class, comes to his shop and lures him in with the promise of winning more money than he has ever imagined. Plus, she says, “The best thing is in Las Vegas you can be anyone you want to be.”

Soon, Ben quits his job, neglects his best friends (Josh Gad and Sam Golzari) and the project they’ve been working on for a science competition, and begins to lead a double life that he’s kept secret even to his mother, who has been saving money to send the son she loves to college.

What Ben, and the rest of his team doesn’t know, is that Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), a casino “loss prevention consultant”, is the eye in the sky watching over tables and looking to catch those who employ unorthodox ways of getting over on the house. As it turns out, Cole also has a history with Mickey that goes back twenty five years, and he would like nothing better than to take him down.

I’ll admit 21 is filled with clichés, plot contrivances, and scenes that lack believability. For instance, why in earth would Ben who is supposed to be so smart, hide his thousands of dollars in winnings in the ceiling of his dorm room, leaving it at risk to be stolen. I can’t be the only one who notices that though partly set in Boston, noone there speaks with a Boston accent. Nevertheless, I forgave those and other script problems in favor of 21 being a slick, well paced, highly entertaining film with a slammin’ music score that showcases Las Vegas casinos and touches on the seduction of gambling and the importance of walking away when you are ahead of the game.

For director Robert Luketic whose resume includes comedies such as Legally Blonde and Monster-in-Law, 21 is certainly a move into another genre and he’s done an admirable job with this drama/thriller that is filled with energy, excitement and twists and turns.

I don’t claim to know much about gambling, but I would be willing to bet that audiences, especially fans of Ocean’s 11 and other casino heist movies, are going to like this film. Worst case scenario, if you don’t agree the most you will lose is the cost of a movie ticket. I’d say the odds are in my favor.

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