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Interesting the first time, boring the second!

Author: Arlis Fuson from United States
4 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is my second time viewing this and I enjoyed it and was on the edge of my seat the first time, but here on my second I saw this movie had nothing but a good story thats no fun to hear twice.

This movie is based on true events and the screenwriters adapted the film from Ben Mezrichs book 'Bringing down the house: The Story Of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas For Millions'. The book was also used for a movie from 1994 called The Last Casino.

The title of the book tells the story well enough but I will elaborate..A boy who's extremely smart gets sucked in by a teacher who knows the kid will be good with numbers and counting cards. The teacher has a few other students and he takes them to Vegas and they count cards and win millions of dollars. It's not as easy as it all sounds and they have a good system working together and they have casino guards constantly trying to catch them.

Not only is main character Ben realizing that life can be fun and that he might be letting his dreams slip, he is also finding he's losing his friends and changing from what he wants to be.

The real story is about some Asian kids at M.I.T. but here its mostly played by white kids. The actors were okay. Jim Sturgess was brought to my attention first in the wonderful Across The Universe movie and Jim did a wonderful job, it's one reason I picked 21 up to begin with. He is English and his voice coach did a wonderful job teaching him to speak more American. I am a huge fan of Kevin Spacey and usually think he chooses great roles. Laurence Fishburn is so so too, and I like seeing him as a bad guy in a co-staring role, never liked him in large doses so here he is fine. I do however want to point out I hate the Asian kid Aaron Yoo, he plays the same guy in every movie and is rather annoying. Josh Gad is another young actor I want to see less of, he's always playing the fat cliché geek friend in these movies and just does a horrible job.

This movie is okay, I wont lie and put it down, because I did enjoy it the first time, I will say all and all it's a nice little film...It's neither great or horrible..its average...worth a watch.. 4 out of 10 stars

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Blackjack anyone

Author: aledh-644-505424 from United Kingdom
25 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An interesting look into the world of counting cards and the consequences surrounding it. Ben (Jim Sturgess) is welcomed into a group of people headed by Micky (Kevin Spacey) and soon learns the ropes. After a while Ben just can't say no and blows it all bringing them to the attention of casino security headed by Cole (Laurence Fishburne).

Full of intense action and a great storyline, this is a must watch film. Kate Bosworth provides the beauty in this film and she does a great job at it. This film won't disappoint.

My rating 8/10

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Enjoyable if not a little generic

Author: dominicpearson from United Kingdom
29 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I, like lots of others, am captivated by the idea of hitting Vegas and winning big at the tables. We would love to be able to beat the house but live with the knowledge that the decks are deeply stacked against us. Which is why I loved the premise of this film - a team of MIT students with the intelligence and guts to do so take on the casinos and win. Well, kind of.

The first point for anyone watching this who has any knowledge of the book/true story that the film is based on - creative licence has been used quite liberally. Not that this is a bad thing - without it we would have been denied Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburnes performances which are, as ever, very assured if not their best.

The story develops a little too quickly for my liking but I am aware of the time constraints a film like this suffers from. My main issue is that there just did not seem to be sufficient character depth, especially for the supporting cast. Kate Bosworths love interest almost gave us a back story but all we learnt was that her father played blackjack, lost a huge hand and is now "gone". The other team members are so transparent as to be see through. You don't care for them, shown when the other big money player (I don't recall his name!) is booted from the team. You have no empathy for him and the feelings of jealousy he is having. The story continues without a second thought.

With a little more effort from the writers I think an extra dimension could have been given to the film, particularly with Bens relationship with his teammates. Its a shame as the friendship he has with his "geek" friends seems genuine and you feel for them as he begins becoming distant from them.

I understand the reasons the film was written like this - the relationship between Ben and Kevin Spacey's character is the crux of the film and, more specifically, how easily and quickly Ben becomes corrupted. And it is this corruption that proves the second fault in the film - we go from seeing a well rounded, likable character fully focused on the job he is doing fall from grace in the space of a couple of scenes and find redemption in a few more. It all happens too quickly and without any real conviction that this is in his character to switch so violently against character in such a short space of time.

He gets everything he wants and does not seem to pay for his arrogance and mistakes much less learn from them. Indeed, he seemed proud of his story, (which includes dishonesty, double crossing, promiscuity and all the excesses of a life in Vegas as a high stakes gambler) I would question whether an establishment such as Harvard would really want to give such a prestigious scholarship to someone of such questionable character?! The other main problem I have with the film is that the ending is a little too Hollywood - he walks away unscathed and with the "life experience" he needs, the security guard gets his pension and Kevin Spacey is the only one who is punished. Lets remember that Ben was keeping the money in his roof and breaking the same tax laws as his mentor! But for these faults, however, there is a gripping thriller/drama that is well worth checking out. I always enjoy Kevin Spacey. His ability to control his menace throughout before unleashing his true, nasty personality in two or three quietly gripping scenes was a particular highlight. Here is a person who gains the full, unquestioned trust of his pupils, uses them and spits them out when they are no longer of use to him. He is manipulation personified.

Laurence Fishburne is also very believable as the old school Vegas security struggling to come to terms with the future and, indeed, his past. The scenes where he is "interogating" the card counters is reminiscent of Christopher Walken in True Romance - he exudes very confident malice, a softly spoken tough guy that you will not want to cross again.

The score of the film is perfect as well. It complements the story perfectly. The picture itself is shot very stylistically, which is something you expect from a film of this nature. I can recommend this film for someone with a spare couple of hours to fill - sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! 6.5/10

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Mildly entertaining movie weak on characterization

Author: Sanne Lehmann ( from Denmark
4 November 2009

21 tells the story about young MIT student Ben Cambell who is trying to somehow finance Harvard medical school. He is admitted the school but does not have the funds to pay for it. He is a brilliant student in the areas of mathematics and logic and by chance is spotted by his teacher Michael Rosa, who welcomes him into his student group of competent card counters.

In my view the theme of the film is achievement. What does it mean to achieve something and are all the ways of achieving great things legitimate? This central theme is especially apparent when looking at Bens relationship with his old friends that cools way down when he starts spending all his weekends in Vegas, and suddenly does not have the time for his buddies anymore. It is precisely in Ben's treatment of his friends that we really begin to question the legitimacy of his new path to gaining funds for MED school.

The film does engage its audience but to my mind the characters surrounding Ben are way too weak. There are too many unanswered questions about the motivation of the other characters. For instance about the teacher Rosa. How is he using all the money he wins? What happened in the past? The love interest Jill Taylor seems more of an image than a real character - what is her motivation? The same goes for the other team members. The central characters are portrayed in a sketchy manner where we do not have any idea about their motivation. It is only Ben's story and Ben's motivation that is part of the film.

It would have been a much stronger film, if the theme of achievement would have been supported in the characterization of the other characters in the film.

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Smart subject, dumb movie

Author: Raymond from Finland
2 November 2009

Kevin Spacey, IMDb average score of 6,8 and a subject involving smarter-than-usual people doing some gambling mathematics sounds like a good movie. And was I fooled.

The story starts out fairly nice, Massachusetts and the university locations are nice to look at and the basic setup of using your special brain skills to make you rich is intriguing.

Only, little by little I noticed that all the interesting stuff is left to the minimum. Secret signs, the actual card counting and mathematics, fooling the cameras, face recognition. There was so much to play with, but the movie was basically all about loosing yourself to money and hi-life. Your regular "too much, too fast" story we get to read about up and coming film stars and musicians alike.

To me this just doesn't quite match up. At times it was like watching Britney Spears with an IQ of 160. Still, somehow, the story managed to be very predictable until maybe the very end.

I think the biggest let down here was, that I was actually looking forward to a smart movie that provokes some brain activity, but it was a simple popcorn movie afterall.

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Interesting but not Amazing

Author: keithmwarwick from United Kingdom
11 June 2009

Yea, this movie was entertaining but NOT a blockbuster. With a very controlled and understated performance from the young lead, Jim Sturgess, which has been woefully overlooked, ably assisted by the master-class actor himself - Kevin Spacey - the movie does entertain even if he has ridden roughshod over the book. Spacey hams it up, slightly, but that's just a little bit of scene-stealing technique the old salt is prone to do when in danger of being upstaged by a younger acting talent. There were anomalies in the plot and sometimes it seemed a bit too Ocean's Eleven a la Blackjack as the actors were shoe-horned into a formulaic over-plot that threatens on occasions to blow the charm factor out of the water - or ocean!

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Entertaining & Wonderful Concept

Author: SATHYA RAMA KRISHNA M from India
2 March 2009

Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a student at MIT. He needs 300,000 dollars to fund his higher education at Harvard Medical School. Prof. Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) is a maths professor at MIT. He is amazed with mathematical skill and the ability to think rationally without any emotional attachment of Ben. Micky assembles a tiny group of his best students and train them to beat the game of Black Jack. After initial resistance, Ben joins that team. They go to Los Vegas in every weekend to win loads of money at casinos by playing Black Jack game. The rest of the story is all about whether Ben could achieve his goal of raising 300,000 dollars for his med school or not.

The fascinating story of this film is about a bunch of students robbing the casinos by beating the black jack game. It also has the ingredients of love and revenge.

VARIABLE CHANGE: The professor explains the concept of variable change in the beginning of the film. And the same concept is used against the professor towards the climax.

TAILPIECE: 21 is based on a real story that happened in MIT. There is a saying that 'always the house wins' in any Casino. But a group of brilliant students robbing the Casino is a wonderful concept.

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Loosely based on the true story

Author: blanche-2 from United States
17 December 2008

"21" is the story of the famous MIT Blackjack Team that plays fast and loose with the real story. Nevertheless, it's still a compelling and interesting movie. It's really a morality tale about a brilliant young man, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is talked by a professor (Kevin Spacey) into joining a blackjack group that counts cards, uses hand signals, codes, and disguises, and goes to Vegas every weekend. Ben has been accepted into Harvard pre-med but has no way of getting the $300,000 tuition. In this story, there are no such things as financial packages and student loans. Ben reluctantly joins the group but only until he can make his Harvard money. Of course, that's not what happens. Once in and living the high life, he can't stop. He finally becomes so arrogant that he makes what turns out to be a very costly mistake.

The shots of Boston, where I went to school, and Vegas are great, and the acting is excellent. Sturgess is joined by the beautiful Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, and Jacob Pitts. Laurence Fishburne has a small role, but he's scary as all get-out as a security man. Two real-life members of the Blackjack Team played card dealers.

In the actual story, there were several of these groups out of MIT that played for years. In telescoping the story, there are a few holes. For instance, Campbell never wears a disguise until the end, which in real life, never happened. The only one who consistently wears a disguise is Bosworth; these teams were much more careful than that. Also, they seem to go to Vegas every week instead of switching off with Atlantic City, for instance, or laying low for a time.

There are a few interesting twists in "21," and it moves quickly. Recommended - a very good movie.

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dazzled you

Author: faisal-iftikhar from Pakistan
20 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

this is amazing film focus on very small topic to get in Howard medical school which is very expensive for one brilliant student which is in leading role named as Ben. I think this is a best movie i have ever seen on university boys.

excellent movie with excellent ending. and also this movie is based on true story regrading most popular cards game in casinos "black jack". this movie has emotions,motivation,love and friendship and also in the end having some kind of sense of revenge.

This is a story which is quite enough to dazzle some one its a wonderful life experience.The movie starting line is "winner winner chicken dinner" is an excellent description of the movie.

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Taking Las Vegas by card-counting.

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
30 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is important to realize that card-counting is NOT illegal, but casinos really don't care for people who do it because it skews the odds in their favor, and a casino can lose big.

Inspired by a true story of MIT students who did this, the movie has a very nice feel to it. Brit Jim Sturgess comes across much like Toby Maguire here, as Ben Campbell, serious student who is trying to get into MIT Medical school, but can't afford it unless he gets a grant. Ben also happens to be a natural math genius.

One of Ben's professors is Kevin Spacey as Prof. Micky Rosa. When Mickey sees first-hand how Ben's mind works, he gets to recruiting him to join a small group that works hard in off-hours to master a card-counting technique. Then, they take their skills to Vegas on weekends and win lots of money.

At first Ben wants no part of it. But a girl he already had his eye on, the prettiest girl at MIT, Kate Bosworth as Jill Taylor helps in the recruiting effort. Eventually Ben is hooked.

The movie does a good job of switching between the rather boring academic lifestyle at MIT and the swinging glitz of Vegas.

The fly in their ointment becomes Laurence Fishburne as Cole Williams, who works for the casino as a "loss control" expert. He soon gets onto the trail of Ben and the others.

Good, suspenseful movie. The ending is sort of "forced", but my wife and I enjoyed it.

SPOILERS: Ben is doing great but at one point gets sucked into the glamour of the moment and goes against their own rules and loses $200,000. Since Mickey is in for 50% of everything, he sees this as his money, and demands that Ben pay it all back. But Ben is saving his winnings for $300,000 that medical school will cost. Micky is a poor loser and steals the money Ben had stashed above his dorm bed in the ceiling. But Ben gets the last laugh, luring Mickey to Vegas one more time, where a trap had been set for Cole to capture him. And the basic outcome had Mickey obligated to restore all Ben's grades, and in the end it appeared Ben would get the grant to pay his medical school.

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