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Reviews & Ratings for
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Index 282 reviews in total 

Could've been better

Author: heavygambler from Canada
26 April 2008

I do not see a lot of movies in theatres so I tend to rate them higher and I read the book twice so I loved the concept but the movie fell short for me. I know the movie is never is as good as the book but still ... In the book all the kids were experts whereas here Ben is seen as some kind of God. I would've liked to see an Asian lead for the role but I know Hollywood can only glamorize whites, blacks and fat people but whatever I thought the acting was good. Would've like to see more time spent on the team. I mean in the book you had the development of the team, the ongoing battle with the security, team breakups, travel to the riverboats and the south, Atlantic City and lotsa drama with in the ranks. Here we saw the same casino and no depth with the team and they came across as kind of shallow. I think if I didn't read the book first I woulda gave it a 7 or 8.

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An Excellent Film

Author: pag-12 from United States
26 April 2008

Wow...this movie was thoroughly engaging. The acting was superb, as was the direction, writing, editing, and overall production value. It was refreshing to see a film that could have so easily turned out to be a superficial, Hollywood "throw-away" actually be made as an intelligent, suspenseful, and engaging film that in no way wastes the talents of those involved. I will even go so far as to say that it has all of the qualities that made 1973's "The Sting" a classic---characters you care about, high stakes, an intriguing plot, smart direction, solid performances, and an ending that pays off. I highly recommend this film; it's certainly one of the best of the year.

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Three times 7 makes 21

Author: Pascal Zinken (LazySod) from Maastricht, The Netherlands
25 April 2008

When a student of MIT finds himself in need of money he decides to join a club of card players that have decided to go to Las Vegas and become rich by counting cards at the blackjack table. Based on a book that is based on true facts this film displays another side to the story of six students that worked together to "bring the house down", to play the casino to the point of coming away with big money.

The film runs like any average film. A short bit is dedicated to lay out the character definitions and when that has been done well enough the actual story starts. The main bulk of the film is done quite nicely too. Nothing too fancy or too good, but good enough for cinema. The actual card playing is made interesting by displaying the thoughts of the main character together with his reasoning and there's a fair bit of action sequences added as well to make it even more interesting.

I can't comment on how true the film is to the book as I've never read that, nor can I comment on how true it is to reality as I don't know the facts. As a film it works out pretty well though. Not really good, but good enough.

7 out of 10 decks stacked

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Failed to meet my low expectations

Author: mklasr from United States
5 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There were 2 aspects to the 1980's movie "Soul Man", and they have each been featured in their own 2008 movie. Robert Downey Junior stole the show in "Tropic Thunder" by revisiting the concept of a White Man acting like a Black Man. 21 revisited the idea of a successful Harvard applicant faced with the daunting task of having to pay its steep tuition.

However, that's where the comparisons end. While "Tropic Thunder" used the main premise of "Soul Man" as a comedic sidebar, this movie used its sidebar as the main premise. No one wants to feel sorry for someone who's admitted into Harvard but can't pay for it. If you got in there, odds are you'd be accepted into a state school which you can most likely afford. Once C. Thomas Howell accepted the scholarship in "Soul Man", his inability to pay was no longer an issue. He simply had to live his life undercover as a black student. Ben Campbell never had any obligation to maintain any of his cover stories, only to use a different one each night. C. Thomas Howell was pulled over for no reason by racist cops. Ben Campbell was only caught because he stayed too long at the same table of the same casino.

Ben Campbell experienced the seedy underworld of the Las Vegas High Roller. In doing so, he abandoned his close college friends. He then realized that card counting was too risky of a lifestyle to wish on anybody, so he made up with his friends by...teaching them how to count cards? If he had been a drug dealer, would he have ended the movie by giving his friends his remaining crack to sell? I'm proud of him for Graduating from MIT and being accepted into Harvard Medical School, but that doesn't make up for the fact that he never explained the moral of his story. Other than that he now has a story to tell to his admissions officer. Wow, that's deep...

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Liza LaPira is dating Alf

Author: freakfire-1 from Texas, United States
31 December 2008

"21" should give away a portion of the movie when you see the title and the posters. Its a group of people who are in Vegas and playing to win - via card counting. Illegal by Casino rules, but it is practiced at times nonetheless.

Spacey trains a group of students to bring down the 'house' in Vegas with this scheme. So he takes them there - all the while getting the students off at the university and giving them automatic grades. But if you cross Keving SPacey, things can get ugly.

This film has three different mini-plots in the film. And they are weaved together in a very good way. It has that sort of everybody wins ending, but its Hollywood. That is supposed to happen so the audience can feel better.

But I liked it. But it needed more Liza LaPira. "B+"

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Easy-to-watch caper inspired by true events.

Author: Jonathon Dabell ( from Todmorden, England
11 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"21" is an easy-to-watch caper movie based on factual events. You don't particularly have to be able to understand the rules of blackjack, nor do you have to be a gambling enthusiast, to enjoy the film. It begins, keeps you engrossed for a couple of hours, then finishes. The whole thing is smooth, slick and enjoyable on an undemanding level. The lack of depth hurts the film when it comes to repeat viewings, but if you intend to watch it once only it's a reasonably entertaining flick.

MIT student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is desperate to secure a place at Harvard Medical School, but cannot afford the educational fees so is hedging all his hopes on winning a much-sought scholarship. Fate lends a hand when Ben proves his ingenuity in an advanced maths class taught by charismatic lecturer Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), during which he successfully solves a complex probability question. Later, Ben is invited to join Professor Rosa and five other students who are part of a well-organised gambling racket involving the card game blackjack. Using their mathematical know-how, the team have devised a system for winning tens of thousands of dollars at the blackjack table. They take it in turns as "spotters" (card-counters who place minimum bets and look out for tables where the game is about to yield big money), and "big players" (players who move in with the expensive bets once a promising table has been identified). Ben is suddenly caught up in a world of glitz and glamour as the team work the Las Vegas casinos…. he's having a blast, winning a fortune, and falling for the girl of his dreams - team-member Jill (Kate Bosworth). But trouble brews on the horizon as old-school security expert Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) gradually latches onto the team's scam…..

Based on the Ben Mezrich book Bringing Down The House, the film is generally quite believably plotted. It only really slips into moments of unpersuasiveness when melodrama and clichés take over (e.g the somewhat fanciful love scene between Ben and Jill; the contrived "sting" planned by Cole Williams to nail his longtime nemesis Mickey Rosa; etc.) It's nice to see a clutch of personable new stars coming through in a film like this, even if the script doesn't place huge demands on their acting ability. Spacey and Fishburne are the older, more experienced hands on deck, and they do their thing with an air of confidence and professionalism. The book-ends of the films - during which Campbell tries to "dazzle" a Harvard interviewer with the story of his gambling adventures – are a bit forced and obvious and, if I'm honest, irritated me a little. But, on the whole, "21" is entertaining stuff…. you could certainly do a lot worse.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

liked it,didn't love it

Author: disdressed12 from Canada
23 October 2008

while i liked this movie,i didn't love was entertaining,but not really very,while watching,i couldn't help but think i'd had seen the movie before,under a different title and with different actors.the name of said movie still escapes be fair though,when you make a film centered around the subject of gambling,there's isn't too much you can do to distinguish one from another.i will say,though,that i thought Kevin Spacey was brilliant in his performance and Laurence Fishburne was equally good.Spacey and Fishburne owned the movie in their scenes.Kate Bosworth and Jim Sturgess were also in the movie,but were overshadowed by Spacey&&&possible minor spoiler***Spacey and Fishburne are hardly really in the movie and i don't think he and i don't think they had any scenes together****.i was mildly entertained,and never bored,but nothing beyond that.for me,21 is a 6/10

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Take off in a dull, grey winter, and land in an everlasting subtropic summer

Author: Balazs Csaszar ( from Hungary
12 October 2008

Even though 21 constitutes of elements you can find in a lot of movies, I did not feel I was watching the thirty-fourth version of the poor, miserable kid getting rich and then losing it all again, so there can be a lesson learnt, that it is not money that makes our life but honest relationships and loyalty. All was there, in the script, for it to be a forgettable flick full of uninteresting characters, common places and shallow moralizing, but good pacing, nice photographing and a terrific Kevin Spacey made it a good past-time to sit it through. A heartfelt performance from Jim Sturgess was just another surprising add-on.

I am not a huge fan of cards, but this film has implanted an honest curiosity in me for blackjack. I know the system these kids follow is partly false - it has to be; I never endorsed a film teaching you to cheat, to build bombs out of household materials, to paralyze somebody by tapping on a hidden stress point -, still, it makes me wonder what stunts you can pull to enhance your chances of winning in card games.

The last action sequence, however, is too very reminiscent of the plots of cheap B movies and there also are some awkward moments - very unlikely situations - throughout the whole movie, nevertheless, I tend to like it. Regardless of how things conclude, it gives you back your childish hopes and dreams of once kicking it big time.

You too, like Ben Campbell, can get fooled by the fake facade of Vegas - the city that only comes to life when it is soaking in floodlight -, and the blinding contrast it shows with the grey, slushy winter streets of the traditional, WASP college cities of the Northeast.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

MIT Student Genius Comes of Age in Vegas--Ocean's Eleven meets Rounders

Author: classicalsteve from Oakland, CA
23 August 2008

Life experience versus book knowledge is at the heart of "21", which is apparently based on a true story. This perfectly enjoyable but somewhat fantastical film centers on a mathematics genius who climbs out of the womb of academia and into the fast lane of Sin City, via everyone's favorite Vegas game, Black Jack. Ben at first seems an unlikely candidate. At MIT, he has an IQ measured in light years, but he has about as much street smarts as Mister Rogers. Seems the last time he was outside of Boston was during a previous life. He hangs out with two similar like-geniuses who get A's in chemistry and physics and F's in sociability and charisma. They giggle at the local pub but have no idea how to approach any girls.

But one of his professors, a conniving mathematics professor with ulterior motives, played with sly intelligence by the incomparable Kevin Spacey, detects the computer-in-tennis-shoes in one his classes. Spacey signs him on to an underground group of Black Jack players that make money for themselves and their mentor on weekends. And they return to Boston to their "normal" lives of students and professor. Much of the film flip-flops between the glitz of Vegas and the snow-clad streets of Boston, similar to Rounders where the poker playing world and the law school world are contrasted.

Ben learns not only the subtleties of the game but also how to use his computer mind to discern when to bet high and when to lay low. The other members of the team act as scouts to determine which tables are ripe for action and those to be avoided. They wear disguises and use assumed names. The only thing that was a little hard to swallow was that when Ben gets to the table, he can't seem to lose. No matter how good a player may be at determining what cards have yet to be played, they don't always turn up the way you want. I might have wanted him to lose a little bit to differentiate when he won he big.

Like Rounders, Ben is flying high. He is winning hundreds of thousands of dollars for himself and the team, and particularly Kevin Spacey. Until a savvy spotter (Laurence Fishburne) starts to see Ben a few times too many. And see him win one times to many. How this plays out is the best part of the film, with a good twist towards the end.

Some have complained that the movie is predictable, but I found it a breath of fresh air when compared with most of the Hollywood sub-par Vegas fair being offered today. "21" is far better than the likes of the ridiculously silly movie "Lucky You". "21" is well-written, mostly believable, and with an outstanding performance by Jim Sturgess who carries the whole film much like Matt Damon in Rounders. Sure, maybe it follows the typical W form of story-telling a little too closely, but I was never bored and I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. Overall a winning hand, I mean film.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

It's slick alright

Author: kosmasp
7 August 2008

"21" is a decent movie. It delivers on it's promise, nothing more and nothing less. Of course it's always a positive thing, to have Kevin Spacey in your movie, it's always Quality improving. But that doesn't change the fact, that this movies plays out "by numbers" (no pun intended). You can see the characters developments from a mile off, can sense the plot/turning points before the movie has begun, so there's little left to really surprise you.

The intentions and the acting is good, but you can have only so much fun with it. And being good with numbers isn't always really attractive. The movie would've been better, if it had tried to make something new, but even the ending will most likely leave you emotionless/not caring. Don't even try to compare it with the really good movies, that have been done with that (or a similar premise) ... your vote would be lower than mine right now

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