Director: Robert Luketic
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne
Storyline: A bunch of kids from MIT are trained by their math professor to count cards (cheat systematically) and make millions in Vegas casinos.
Bottomline: Worth the gamble even if you don’t know the game
If you know how Blackjack is played, you are in to learn a few cool ways to cheat, applying a little mathematics.
Unlike the casino heists that Danny Ocean and Co would pull off, this one is more believable because Robert Luketic’s 21 is inspired from ‘Bringing down the house,’ the bestseller that documented real life stories of students who made millions employing math-based techniques.
Here, a phenomenally talented geeky good-looker Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) needs $3,00,000 to pay for his medical school fees at Harvard, especially since he only has a long shot at the scholarship reserved for the one student who can jump out of the page and dazzle the jury. Heading a team of nerds who are building a car that can drive by itself isn’t going to cut it. Nor is a promotion that pays eight dollars per hour.
Prof. Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) finds the young man to have the perfect temperament for cheating at Blackjack and makes him join the team that usually scores at the casinos at Vegas.
But what gets the movie really going, in the middle of all that inspired con, is the sexual tension and volatile chemistry between Jim Sturgess (Jude from Across The Universe) and the incredible attractive Kate Bosworth, who plays that girl every guy in college wants to date and one of the team-members.
21 hardly deviates from the regular campus movie formula. There are socially ill-equipped geeks and there is the circle of ‘cool,’ the hero of the story jumps camp and gets the girl, becomes so cool that he forgets his fat beer buddies until life reminds him all about friends, love and who he really is… Yet, to director Robert Luketic’s credit, it feels like a hardcore heist flick – the music, cinematography and editing constantly providing the tension and a sense of adventure.
With the veteran Kevin Spacey and the menacing Lawrence Fishburne around to intimidate them, you know the kids are only puppets and thankfully, the film at no point tries to make the pros look like fools. So even if you don’t understand how Blackjack is played, you still have a lot to character equations to keep you hooked.
In the end, though it is quite entertaining, you are left wondering what 21 could’ve been had this material been given to the guys who made Knocked Up or Superbad.