To go see a movie like 21 you have to think back to a time where Vegas wasn’t a family friendly place where it was just coming into the age where we are today where cheating the casino’s out of hundreds of thousands of dollars is nearly impossible. This is the setting for the movie wittingly entitled 21. The name alone lets the viewer know what game and how this small group of MIT students, who are mathematical geniuses, stroll into Las Vegas only a handful of times but end up walking out of the casino with more money than anyone knows what to do with.
Jim Sturgess, from Across the Universe, plays the mathematical genius Ben Campell who dreams of getting admitted into Harvard Medical to become the doctor he always dreamed of. Once he gets admitted to the school he runs into a bit of a snag, money, an issue that many people have. So what does he do? Applies for a full ride through a scholarship that would admit him there. Although, a professor tells him that the only way he can get this scholarship is through his essay that needs to “Dazzle and jump off the page.”
Ben never had much life experience since he was always focused on work and school. His intelligence is shown throughout the movie from his 1590 on the SAT’s, 44 on the MCATs, and the one time you see him working and he does a customers total for sales in his head. Though, he still lacks the experience and this causes the main issue for this movie. As a student of MIT he takes courses that require an amazing amount of intellect, one of which taught by none other than Kevin Spacey.
Kevin Spacey plays the role of Mickey Rosa, who use to play blackjack and count cards but for some unknown reason stepped out while he was on top. When Mickey asks a question in class Ben is the first to answer and surprises his professor with such an astounding answer that he goes and looks at the test and realizes the intellect that Ben has. One night while Ben is studding in the library he gets encountered by a character that tells him to follow him down through the building to a darkened hallway where only one room has lights on.
Upon entering the room we see Mickey and his crew practicing counting cards and Mickey lays everything out for him. Counting cards being legal, him needing the money for Harvard, everything and although Ben realizes how beneficial this can be, he has trouble wrestling the morality of cheating. He initially turns down the offer and tries to forget about it but only when Jill Taylor, the romantic interest played by Kate Bosworth, enters his work and explains everything to him does he actually join the team.
The movie then embarks on a wonderful montage of Vegas and it’s high roller lifestyle that completely transforms the pace of the movie. Ben and his crew begin taking all the casino’s by force and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars by simply paying attention to the cards and the most simplistic system of showing when a deck is ready to let lose and pay off the big money.
Enter Lawrence Fishburne, Cole Williams the muscle of the casino, who is having difficulty dealing with a new security system that uses facial recognition to catch card counters and cheaters as they enter the building. Think of Cole as your classic old school Vegas thug, using his muscle to get his way. Cole spots Ben while he’s winning a ridiculous amount of hands and getting the payoff of a lifetime. As Cole goes to catch Ben, a fight breaks out and luckily our “hero” gets away.
One fateful night, while Ben is not on his “A-game” loses somewhere near two hundred thousand dollars and Mickey has a freak out. Telling Ben he’s off the team and that he’ll get the money back one way or another. Ben then tries to lead the team but as bad luck would have it, Cole finally catches up to him and beats the tar out off Ben, Old school Vegas style.
When Ben returns back to Boston, he sees that Mickey has taken everything from Ben. Giving him an incomplete to a class, breaking into his dorm and stealing all the money Ben had been saving for Harvard Med. For a while it seems that fate has screwed Ben over and there’s nothing he can do. Ben decides to apologize to Mickey and have one last night in Vegas to get all the money back.
This was one amazing ride of a movie from start to end. The acting was amazing and the ode to Bono’s role in Across the Universe was humorous. In the end though, this movie was a treat for the viewer and quite a ride it takes you. This movie is highly recommended for anyone who has the need to experience the high roller lifestyle of Vegas, Hands Down.
Since we all need to have ratings, I would give 21 the movie an 8 out of 10