Movie Review: 21

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Brief Description

Slick casino scam tale based on Ben Mezrich’s book ‘Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions’. Brilliant M.I.T. student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) has got money worries, if he doesn’t come up with $300,000 he’s going to be kicked out. Luckily for Ben, help is at hand in the shape of maths professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), who has formed a team of students capable of taking on the casinos of Las Vegas and beating them at blackjack, using a technique known as card counting. But as the team start to win, and win big, the glitzy lifestyle soon starts to ensnare Ben, and he begins to believe he’s untouchable. With the team attracting the attention of casino security chief Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), it’s not long before the stakes are raised to dangerous levels.

My overview

I’d like to start this review by just mentioning that I love Kevin Spacey, starting my obsession with watching Seven and then slowly but surely developing it with films like the usual suspects, American beauty and now indulged in the show House of Cards. So I knew I was in safe hands when choosing this film to watch as he plays a greedy, manipulative teacher with access to smart children to do his bidding.

If you read the back of the DVD box it starts by expressing that this show is inspired by true life events of a group of MIT students who developed the skills to count cards and would go to Vegas to make millions of dollars and although counting cards is not considered illegal, let’s face it gambling especially in Vegas has renowned dark corners in which the casino is allowed to deal with you as it wishes if they find you.

The film is based around the time where facial recognition software is being established in all major casinos, which by the sound of what was described in the film is nearly impossible for people to win except on luck alone. Cole Williams played by Laurence Fishburne, is the last remaining security contractor who is slowly being replaced by machines (Matrix anyone?) and is adamant that he will not have people cheating money out of the buildings he protects.

The main protagonist Ben is played by the excellent Jim Sturgess (A fellow Surrey boy). Finds himself in a difficult situation, he’s an incredibly smart student whose only fault is that he can’t afford $300,000 tuition fee for Harvard Medical School. I’m envious of anyone who could afford it to be honest.

Rather than $8 an hour working in a suit store, he finds himself joining a group of smart students headed up by Micky Rosa, played by the awesome Kevin Spacey… whose key goal is to make money by counting cards, which as you can imagine is a very shady business. It’s easy to see why someone would choose to go for it though, with an unrealistic money goal to achieve it is easy to see why people to choose to gamble everything for that one chance at gold.

The story follows as the effect of gambling takes its toll on Ben, from nervous to cocky and then just plain arrogant. You will see the usual mechanics of characteristic change make him deny certain aspects of his life, such as his friends or his hard work ethic in school.

I really enjoyed the love interest in this story as it defied both their characteristics of being ruled by logic and always attempt to deny themselves their emotion but there is something about the chemistry and one evening while intoxicated they lose all self-control, I may not sound like a romantic right now but to me that seems to be very true to life.

To me this film was a deeper, grittier version of Ocean’s eleven, with both humour and interesting plot twists. A College student finds himself taken for a ride and comes out getting precisely what he wanted from the journey, a life experience worth talking about and a bit of cash for his time.


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