Too bland, too bright and too long, 21 may talk a big game but it is mainly insipid entertainment.
Based on the true life novel “Bringing Down the House”, 21 recounts (get it?) the adventures of a group of MIT students who took Vegas to the cleaners by counting cards at the blackjack table.
Jim Sturgess stars as Ben, a brilliant yet socially awkward student (in other words, a geek) who is trying to obtain a scholarship at Harvard Medical School which would pay for the enormous tuition fee which he cannot afford. Soon he is recruited by the charismatic and devious mathematics Professor Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey) to be apart of a card counting scheme poised to make millions from various casinos in America.
There is no need to delve further with the plot, expect to say that the film is primarily about a simple man seduced by wealth and power only to lose control and crash and burn. Its formulaic filmmaking seen dozens of time before in every poker / gangster film before it, only others have done it better.
Director Robert Luketic has created a film high on style, which features plenty of visuals of the glittery cesspool which is Las Vegas and back to back montages of marathon sessions of blackjack followed by copious amounts of partying.
However, it just does not engross with its story, which is a shame considering the source material. The use of a narrator further enhances its generic vibe.
The films biggest flaw is its reliance on Jim Sturgess to carry the film despite the fact that he does not have enough allurement or personality to keep the viewer interested.
What saves the film is the presence of two great actors, Kevin Spacey – who does his prick authoritarian thing like no other – and Laurence Fishburne, who lends some gravitas as the old school security consultant onto the students' game. They are wonderful actors to watch.
Too bad they were not in a different movie.