Print This Post

Spacey wins big in new film, ’21’

Posted on 04.09.2008

By Manny Casillas, Staff Writer

Robert Luketic (“Legally Blonde”, “Monster-In-Law”) is a guy who makes movies that aren’t exactly award-worthy but manage to do the job of wonderfully entertaining us without insulting our intelligence. His latest, “21,” is no exception, as it tells the true (enough) story of six MIT math-letes who, along with their slithery professor (a back-to-basics Kevin Spacey) attempt to generate as much money as they can from blackjack games in Vegas by counting cards.

Loosely taken from Ben Mezrich’s best-seller, “Bringing Down The House,” the movie plays fast and loose with the facts but never misses its mark to entertain.

It all starts with Ben Cambell (Jim Sturgess of “Across the Universe”), who has a talent for adding and arranging numbers like no one else; he’d put “Rain Man” to shame. He aspires to enter Harvard Medical School but can’t produce the dough. When his talent catches the eye of his professor, Mickey Rosa (Spacey), he is recruited into his team of math whizzes who count cards and bring in the cash. Sturgess, along with the five others—Mickey’s number one guy Fisher (Jacob Pitts), sexy spotter Jill (Kate Bosworth), Choi (Aaron Yoo) and Kianna (Liza Lapira)—make piles of money every weekend and live the high life in posh hotels and clubs. And it’s all legal since there’s no law against card counting.

But their activities attract the attention of casino bouncer Cole Williams, (Laurence Fishburne) who eliminates anyone trying to fight the system in his town.

Unfortunately, there’s too little screen time dedicated to Fishburne. There is enough for Spacey, who brings out the snarky best in this former star card counter.

Director Luketic keeps the pace on course, but sometimes you can see his attempt at emulating Martin Scorsese in “Casino”. He would have been better off evoking really great and under-rated gambling movies like “Rounders” and “The Cooler,” but what Luketic does turn up will dazzle.

The young cast fills things out nicely. Yoo and Lapira are nothing more than stock really, but they manage to sneak in their moments. Bosworth definitely has the sex appeal, but that seems to be about all this poor girl is ever given to do. Someone get her a really good role fast. Then there’s the towering Laurence Fishburne, not given nearly enough screen time unfortunately, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s Spacey’s show, even when he’s not there.

“21” may not be the first best movie of the new year (I’m willing to give that honor to “Stop-Loss”), but in a theatre full of boneheaded choices, “21” is a keeper.


RSS Feed  Follow Us on Twitter  Facebook Profile