Cast: Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Bosworth, Jim Sturgess
Director: Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law)
Script: Peter Steinfeld (Analyze That) & Allan Loeb
It’s a tale that’s been told countless times. Gang figures out how to scam casino, gets in way over their heads, casino catches up them…you have to admit, it’s not an original story. But 21, manages to give the age-old story a new twist. Based on the novel Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, it tells the story of a group of M.I.T. students whose unorthodox mathematics professor, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) – who happens to be a statistics genius – recruits them to count cards in Las Vegas on weekends allowing them to beat the house each time and in the process rake in large amounts of money.
At the center of this group is Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), a shy but brilliant student who joins Rosa and his team in order to pay his college tuition. Although reluctant at first, Ben is soon seduced by the money and glamour of Vegas life, not to mention his sexy partner-in-crime, Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth). The film would not be complete without a “bad” guy, in this case, casino security boss Cole Williams (played brilliantly by Laurence Fishburne), whose persistent tactics are bound to catch up with the wiz kids.
Although the film is predictable in many ways, its central characters manage to add a bit of quirkiness and realism to the story that help connect with the audience and keep them entertained. The character of Ben could have easily been another one of your typical detached teen genius-types, but Sturgess’ sensibility and comic naiveté make you truly feel for him on his roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. The action should not be taken too seriously but the film does make for an entertaining look at the world of gambling.