Length: 123 minutes
Director: Robert Luketic (Monster-in-Law; Legally Blonde)
Writers: Peter Steinfeld (Be Cool; Analyze That) and Allan Loeb (Things We Lost in the Fire; The Only Living Boy in New York)
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Bosworth, Jim Sturgess, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, Jacob Pitts, Jack MacGee, Josh Gad, Sam Golzari, Helen Carey, Jack Gilpin, Jeffrey Ma, Spencer Garrett
When my girlfriend told me the real life story of Jeffrey Ma- the MIT student who along with several of his friends figured out a card counting trick that was able to take numerous casinos for a ton of money- I thought it would make one hell of an interesting movie. It probably still would. “21”, unfortunately, is not that movie. As I was informed as the end credits started to roll and I glanced over at Sarah (my girlfriend) and gave her the “what the hell?” look, the real story was not portrayed in this film. Instead, we get a standard genre pic about the good guy who has a gift, is reluctant to use it, uses it, lets it go to his head, loses everything, and then comes back down to earth to put it all back together again. Jeffrey Ma is changed into Ben Campbell (played by the remarkably boring Jim Sturgess) - an MIT student who leads a dull life. He works at a clothing story for $8 an hour, is designing a robot with his nerdy friends, and dreams of getting into Harvard. One of his professors, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey- hamming it up), notices Ben’s big brain in class one day and invites him in on a secret scam he’s operating. He runs a card counting scheme with a group of his students. Rosa used to play himself, but retired after he was nearly caught by a violent security “guard” (Laurence Fishburne). Ben is reluctant to join at first, but is lured in by his crush on member Jill (Kate Bosworth). Of course, he begins to help the team win big, starts to ignore his friends, lets it all go to his head, forgets the… well, everything I stated earlier. What should have been an extremely interesting glimpse into the world of scams in gambling is as dull as Ben’s earlier life. Director Robert Luketic’s past films have included “Legally Blonde” and “Monster-in-Law”. He handles action and suspense very clumsily. There is no tension or build up when it is required and the movie becomes so by the books that the “surprise” ending is hardly a surprise at all. Jeffrey Ma himself appears as a casino dealer. Too bad they didn’t get a chance to tell his real story. Now that would have been one hell of a movie.
Download Soundtrack MP3s:
The Rolling Stones- You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Soulwax Remix)
LCD Soundsystem- Big Ideas