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21 (2008): A 4 out of 10 Movie Review

Submitted by on August 12, 2008 – 5:34 pmNo Comment

There are some movies you have to see as soon as they are released and there are some that you really aren’t fussed about. 21 is one of those films that you plan to watch, but sometime later. Perhaps when it is released on DVD….or maybe in a few years time when it is on one and you couldn’t be bothered to sit through the Queen’s annual speech. Either way, the movie encourages ambivalence.

I want you to take a look at the poster. It’s glamorous, and shiny (much like Las Vegas) with everyone seemingly vogue-ing to lok super cool. This is a scam movie where a group of people take Las Vegas for a lot of money. Hold on. It very much like Ocean’s 11 and 13. I’m assured though when reading the synosis, that this movie is different. This film stars students (instead of crooks) and is “inspired by” a true story of the MIT Blackjack Team. Oh that’s just perfect. They’ve effectively remade a movie starring much less likeable people. This is confirmed by the opening dialogue. where Jim Sturgess (playing Ben Campbell) carries on about how difficult counting cards is and how only a few very very clever people can do it. I hate him within 15 nanoseconds (or thereabouts) of hearing his student voice claiming he has a “gifted mind”.

So after calming down a bit, I realise that I should take the movie based on its own merits. The fact is 21 stars Kevin Spacey (always a solid actor) and Laurence (Morpheus) Fishburne. Unfortunately neither Spacey’s solid role as a likeable lecturer or Fishburne’s laughable tough security guy act can save the movie from unforgivable clich√©s. Why oh why is there always an unobtainable girl? Why is the geek not only geeky, but super geeky and is incapable of any normal conversation with members of the opposite sex. A shout-out, at this point needs to be made from some of the quite excellent supporting characters. Josh Gad (playing one of the supergeek ) has an excellent comedic effect. This is supported by Aaron Yoo (as the token kleptomaniac), whose scenes make the 105 minute film less painful.

The marketing would have you believe that this is a “smart”, “slick” movie. It isn’t. Not even close. They’ve taken a cast of people, all with lifeless hair (in an attempt to make them look more normal) and attempted to make card counting sound glamorous. It is not entertaining at all. In fact the “smartness” of the movie is highly suspect; for despite quoting mathematical terms like the “Fibonacci number” in the ten minutes, their concept of percentages leaves something to be desired (like a calculator). Initially Ben is told that the winnings were split evenly five ways. Unfortunately this did not account for Spacey’s initial investment or profit margin (since when you include him, there are 6 in the group). Later in the piece, the students are complaining that Spacey takes an uneven 50% before their cut is made. Can they not make up their minds? For smart people they really are very stupid. Along with this stupidity is some very overused lines that work well in a family film, but not in one such as this. in fact there is a line that is shared with with regards to “yesterday being history and tomorrow a mystery” etc. I don’t want to be awkward here but if your best lines are being used by an animated Panda, it is time to fire your screenwriter!

We all understand and accept that there is a certain “flexing” of the facts with regards to movies “based on” (or” inspired by”) true events. If this is the case, wouldn’t it be better to make the characters more likeable? Maybe then, ’s security man could have been played by someone who we don’t associate with Mr (Wooden) Reeves?

21 is far too long. In fact after 51 minutes and 36 seconds (yes, I was timing it) I was wondering when they would just get to the inevitable and predictable end. Unfortunately at that point in the movie I was still only halfway through. I struggled on but I suggest that you don’t. Go to Wikipedia and read the real story of the MIT Blackjack team. It is as dull as you like but at least it’ll only waste ten minutes of your life.

1.8 out of 10 (The poster lied to us all – This film is as glamorous and slick as my arthritic grandmother)

(It has been brought to my attention that I did not reference Kate (Lois Lane) Bosworth in my review. There was a reason for that. The fact is I did not mention the extra who was in the Alumni ball speaking to Kevin Spacey in once scene, 15 minutes from the end of the film. I didn’t do either of these because both of these characters are worthless and contribute nothing to the movie. I didn’t mention her because I wasn’t very much aware of her existence)

Rating: 1 out of 5

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