21 Review
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All his life, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) has dreamed of going to Harvard Medical School. He’s almost there, too. He has a 4.0 GPA at MIT, and he’s already gotten his acceptance letter from Harvard. There’s just one problem: the money. Ben may be Harvard smart, but he’s not Harvard rich. So when Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) comes to him with a no-fail method of making loads of cash—while hanging out with MIT hottie Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth)—Ben can’t resist.

The plan is simple—if you happen to have a 4.0 at MIT. It’s all about counting cards to win at blackjack—and Rosa and his team have worked out the perfect system, which they use on weekend field trips to Vegas. With face-recognition surveillance systems showing up in more and more casinos, though—and with one of the last human security guys determined to prove his worth—they’ve got to keep cool and play by Rosa’s strict rules, or they just might bust.

Although 21 is a sorta-true story about a bunch of super-smart kids pulling off a super-smart plan to make loads of money, the movie itself isn’t exactly super-smart—but it doesn’t really try to be, either. On the contrary, it purposely skims over the smart stuff to make way for the glitz—to make it a little less math-geek and a little more high-roller. So you won’t learn a whole lot about counting cards—and if you try to follow what the characters are doing and how it all works, you’ll most likely get lost in the, er, shuffle.

There are two very different ways to go into 21. On one hand, you can walk into the theater expecting to be intellectually challenged by a sharp and suspenseful drama about card counting—but you’ll be disappointed by the clichés and the inconsistencies and the picky little details. Personally, I had a hard time getting over the fact that Ben’s supposed to be a poor kid from Boston, yet he doesn’t have the slightest hint of a Boston accent (though you can’t help but notice a touch of British accent popping up from time to time). The characters are pretty cliché, and the story doesn’t hold many surprises. So if you’re looking for smart, this ain’t it.

On the other hand, though, you can walk into the theater expecting a glitzy Vegas movie about a geeky kid who dreams of getting the money and the girl—and you’ll be just fine. Because 21 is flashy fun—in a superficial kind of way. Like Sin City itself, 21 throws in plenty of flash and fanfare to distract you from all those picky little details. So if you can just let yourself sit back and enjoy the sights of Vegas—all the fancy boutiques, the swanky suites, and the flashing lights and bling-bling sounds of the casinos—you’ll find plenty here to keep you entertained. Because while 21 is lacking in Harvard smarts, at least it still has a little bit of Vegas fun.

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