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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, it's MIT and there are really hot looking girls? The girls of MIT
might be good looking, but generally they aren't able to dress up like
models. One down for 21.
Then, the real story was much more interesting then this one.
Kevin Spacey as a professor, not bad.
Casino's security folks? Bad choice, the actors chosen were a little too nice and pretty. They seemed to play at only a few casio's, well there a lot of casinos in Las Vegas, they could have switched casinos for 17 times 3 different ones every weekend and not run out.
Hotel scenes? OK, so they are worried about the money and then blow it on really expensive suites? Why bother, you are only going to sleep there.
The movie could have cut out 30 minutes easily and told the story better. Next movie like this, you might want to use USC students to do the production, they would do a better job.
Oh well, I watched it all, sure glad I didn't pay for it.
When I watched this movie for the first time I knew it was based on a
true story but after watching it I had a strong feeling that the movie
makers didn't follow the story very closely, I somehow felt cheated.
Therefore I just had to get the book and read it. Well I was right, the
movie is far off.
Sadly to say there is almost nothing in the movie accurate. However, what probably annoyed me the most is that one of the keys to play a system like they do is to never ever make a counting mistake at the table. Yet in the movie it doesn't seam that any of the characters, except the main character can keep good count. In reality, all of the team members counted perfectly and practiced this skill every day.
I don't understand why they couldn't stick closer to the true story and I think it would have made a much better movie.
I therefore highly recommend that anyone interesting in blackjack or gambling should read the book.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the beginning of the movie you feel bad for Ben Campbell here
because nobody is appreciating all the hard work that he is doing and
he feels that people only respect money which is what eventually
seduces him into this card counting business.
Well the movie quickly starts going down hill from that point on. The beginning is the best part, the middle is worse, and the ending is the worst.
Anyways when he is card counting he encounters Laurence Fishburne who can somehow unrealistically transport to the same casino as him. After card counting for a while he gets 315,000$ and keeps it in his dorm room where it gets stolen which is insanely stupid. Who would keep 300 grand in his dorm room??!?!
Anyways lets move on to the even stupider parts of this movie. Afterwards there is a chase scene where Kevin Spacey is conveniently lead to a limousine which has one of the casino bosses in it but seriously the odds of him even going that way was very low anyways the whole movie gets really very silly and confusing at the ending.
I mean the whole movie leads up to this? It didn't even make a heck of a lot of sense there like he went through all that getting screwed over in card counting and yet he still wants to bring his friends into it?? I mean there is no real climax in this movie. It leads up to nothing. I cannot give this more then a 4/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The MIT senior who wants to attend Harvard Medical School and winds up
falling in with a physics professor and his gang who desire to clean
out Las Vegas using the scientific method.
Sounds exciting, but after a while, who cares? In his pursuit to pay for Harvard Medical, our hero joins this group made up of Kevin Spacey, who is quite effective as a college professor, who missed his goal of being a totally natural gambler.
There are the usual elements. Our hero finds love, and truly finds himself on this odyssey. He ignores his friends and when the professor turns on him for a poor gambling performance at the tables, all appears lost.
Laurence Fishburne plays a heavy in this film.
At the end, our hero tells this story to dazzle the Harvard Admission person. Nothing really dazzling here.
Don't gamble on this one.
This movie is based on a true story about some very smart MIT students
and there teacher, Micky. The newest to the group is Ben, whom is the
best with numbers and quickly becomes the star. Micky is the one who
designed the way they would count cards. He is also using his money
when gambling,so he takes half. They go to Vegas and by using a system
of card counting, hand signals, and key words, the group proceeds to
win hundreds of thousands of dollars at blackjack.
One night, Ben loses it and continues to play when given the signal to get out. He loses big time which enrages Micky. To get even, Micky calls the casino security and tips them off about Ben. Ben is taken and beaten but is let go. Also, Micky steels Ben's money, which he was saving for Harvard medical school. After a cooling off period, Ben gets back in the good graces of Micky and convinces the group to go back to Vegas for one last big take. Does Ben have something up his sleeve? Has he really forgiven Micky? Is there someone out there who would like to see Micky suffer?
FINAL VERDICT: Not really that exciting, but a good story worth watching.
If you didn't know that "21" was based on the true story of a handful
of MIT students taking Vegas for millions by counting cards in
blackjack, you'd have no idea. Not that it's not plausible, but the
movie plays out so melodramatically, so predictably Hollywood, that it
strips the story told in Ben Mezrich's book "Bringin' Down the House"
of its uniqueness, its potential to show what happens when young
aspiring college students get caught up in the other-worldly glitz and
glamor of Las Vegas. "21" chooses to go for style points, moving
quickly through a basic plot line simply to deliver what it thinks is
slick entertainment. It keeps your attention, but it's amateur-ish in
"21" focuses on the specific story of Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess of "Across the Universe"), a genius MIT student whose one dream is to attend Harvard Medical School and his only obstacle is money. When his professor Micky Rosa (Spacey) discovers his mathematical genius, he enlists his help as a "business partner" training him to join his team of blackjack card-counting students who take weekend trips to Vegas to make bank.
Ben is initially very resistant to the idea, saying a definitive no to a very tempting Kate Bosworth. Naturally, he has a change of heart, but the film lets out that it doesn't really care about its characters when we see no motivation for the change. We could assume the money is too hard to pass up, but we really don't know. The characters merely go through all the motions, same with the relationship that eventually buds between Bosworth's character Jill and Ben.
The movie follows this basic nobody prodigy discovers a hidden talent and rides the waves of fortune until he becomes cocky and thickheaded and trouble starts. Not that you expect anything different, but that's really all it is. Pepper that with flashy gambling shots and montages of living it up in Las Vegas and that's your movie. There are several scenes that seem so forced or dialog that seems unnecessary that you have to laugh at it. It's just not something you can take too seriously. All this just detracts from the interesting storytelling possibilities that the concept offers.
All the same, you root for Ben anyway, you want to know what happens and you feel reasonably entertained. Despite director Robert Luketic ("Legally Blonde") choosing a lot of poor, overdone techniques, "21" is paced well and keeps your attention. The only difference is that you don't care what happens, you just want to know.
There's nothing clever, smooth or edgy about "21" though it just seems to come off that way. You're usually a step ahead of what's going on, so there's no way you can be dazzled by the story. It's the thrill of Vegas and winning big that keeps us tagging along with the story.
Ben (Jim Sturgess) is a math whiz-kid at MIT. He dreams of going to
Harvard Med School, has the grades and the acceptance, but has nowhere
near enough money to put himself through it. Enter Professor Mickey
Rosa (Kevin Spacey), who takes a shining to the kid after a rather
brilliant mathematics discussion during a class. As it turns out, Rosa
is running a blackjack counting group who goes to Vegas on weekends and
make tons of money.
Obviously, we know as an audience that this can lead to no good, but are taken along for the adventure anyway. Unfortunately, the ride does not last very long.
What plagues 21 incessantly is its wanton desire to be a more complicated and intricate movie than it is. Yes, it does deal with a lot of intense mathematical equations, but it never tries asking the audience to answer them. It does give us a rather lengthy montage as to how this team works (using hand gestures and certain words in phrases), and then tells us again when anyone mentions one of these words. It almost gets to the point where the filmmakers begin beating the audience over the head with these simple words (such as "eggs" and "sweet") that we wonder if they had any subtle notions over their subject matter. We see the varying hand gestures multiple times too, but at least they blend in a lot better than a blatant cut to that specific scene in the original montage.
The story itself is a bit of a mess in that it plays out almost frame for frame like any other film with a young person looking to make money the quickest way they can (with an interesting, little-seen twist nevertheless), right down to the supportive mother and neglected friends. And after seeing movies like Martin Scorsese's lengthy epic Casino and the small Canadian film The Last Casino (based off the same material as 21, but somehow ended up being a smoother and more interesting film), you can tell exactly where this film is going to end up by its last frame. Hell, Lawrence Fishburne shows up for less than thirty minutes of screen time, and right after he starts talking, predictability more than just sets in. It gets comfy and makes you feel stupid for even attempting to give this movie a shot.
And because it is so predictable, the movie becomes boring quickly. Seeing the same montages over and over again becomes tedious, and watching these characters move to their eventual ending is almost painful. But the film drags its heels for every minute of its just over two hour run time, and rather than try and attempt to make the film interesting, everything thrown in just makes it more dull and repetitive.
The characters are not much of a help here either. The main character has his motivations for joining the club, but we are never given any sort of indication why any of the other group members are there. Jill (Kate Bosworth) is the supposed sexpot goddess of Ben's dreams, Fisher (Jacob Pitts) is the has been of the group who has a grudge against Ben, and Kianna (Liza Lapira) and Choi (Aaron Yoo) are there simply as glorified seat fillers. Those two do the majority of the hand signaling, and just about nothing else (Choi has a bizarre, albeit useless, subplot where he steals bottles of booze and cheap hotel room pens). Jill and Fisher serve their purposes, and then spend the rest of the movie in a daze, basically going through the motions right up to their character's final moment on screen. I realize this story was based off a book, which in turn was based off a true story, but there has got to have been more to these characters than these simplistic cut outs.
Sturgess, in his first truly lead role (Across the Universe was an ensemble to its very core), is weak as Ben. We can see him struggling to hold the picture together from the start, and he does not get much better as the film goes on. I think it could have been significantly stronger without his continuous narration, but even without it, Sturgess just looks uncomfortable with what he is doing, and almost looks out of place. I can understand that Julie Taymor's uniquely flawed musical opened a lot of doors for him, but this is one he should have either missed entirely, or trained up for a little bit better.
Out of the supporting cast of young people, Bosworth is the only one who really gets a chance to shine, and she does a fairly lousy job of it. As said previously, she plays the supposed sexpot goddess, and she does that. But only, that. She never makes any attempts at giving the character something interesting to do besides watch Ben, and gives even less of a reason for Ben to be so infatuated with her.
Spacey and Fishburne on the other hand, appear to be enjoying themselves as they chew scenery literally limb from limb. This is clearly not their best work, but their roles allow them the space to give their characters a certain finesse and originality that this script clearly made no mention of having. If only they could have rubbed some of their talent off on these young actors, we could have truly had a watchable movie on our hands.
Even with an interesting concept, 21 managed to entertain very little, and frustrate even more. Even with great performances from two seasoned character actors, there is no saving this film from its shoddy acting, and even worse storyline. A solid polish, and less feeling like those that have come before it, could have only made this film worthwhile.
21 is a poor version of Ben Mezrich's best-selling 2002 Bringing Down
the House. The original story is about five Asian MIT students who
walked off with $3 million card counting at various casinos around the
country, beginning in the early nineties.
The movie makers have constructed a half-baked love story that isn't actually in the book. With the romantic intrusion, the thriller aspect of the original is lost. The book may have been tricked up a little. But 21, the movie seems bent on helping casino security Bull Laurence Fishburne keep his image intact and that of the Vegas casinos unblemished. Because the characters appear to be playing in real Las Vegas casinos, at least at times, it looks as if producers may have cut a deal with Vegas to soften both Fishburne's tough guy image and minimize embarrassment the Casinos suffered at the hands of the merry MIT crew.
In the book, the casinos and their pit bosses and security people were clods who never caught onto a thing for over six years. The movie hasn't got time for that long a wait. Fishburne is suspicious of lead Ben Campbell almost instantly.
Here's a major myth that grew up in the seventies that the book explodes: Casinos spread the story that once multi-decks were placed in shoes, card counting wouldn't work anymore. In fact, multi-decks actually improved odds for counting players by lengthening the period of time that dealer's hands stayed hot for players and cold for dealers.
In the film the MIT crew does all its work in Vegas. In the book, the MIT gang went to riverboats around Chicago, to Louisiana and Missisippi Indian casinos and even overseas to Monte Carlo and Cannes.
In the film, Kevin Spacey is an MIT math prof who spearheads the Casino Con and enlists his own students to be his players. A college girl is in love with the hero Ben Campbell. In reality, all of the players were Asians who wore disguises and masqueraded as rich orientals out to blow big money at the tables. Mickey(Spacey), the crew leader and organizer is an MIT prof and a professional gambler too.
The movie constructs a fiction that Campbell only wants to make $300,000 to finance his education at Harvard as a doctor. The truth is the real Jeff Ma never went to Med School and never wanted to. Ma and the four orientals who took down Vegas, worked the various casinos for nearly ten years and only gave it up when most casinos in the country had identified them and they could no longer play.
Somewhere in the middle of the book Mickey and the Ben Campbell character modeled on Jeff Ma split, and begin running separate teams in the casinos. The movie has Mickey (Spacey) fingering Ben and his team to Casino Security. That would have exposed Mickey too. Its absurd. In fact, though there was some minor bad blood after the split, it was in the interests of both teams to keep quiet about one another. And that is what they did.
In the book, the players wore disguises always and changed them often so they wouldn't be recognized when they returned to the same casinos. The movie talked of disguises but Ben never actually wore won except once. It made no sense. He'd have been caught on the second visit without a disguise. In the film, one of the hand signals to tip the Ben to the 'hot' blackjack table, was so blatantly obvious, no pit manager or security bull could have missed it.
The movie left two nerdy friends of Ben Campbell's lurking around MIT clueless about Ben's weekend table action. Those characters and the plots around them were lame. The whole college crosscut was so weak they might just as well have eliminated it altogether. Trying to merge the college weekdays and weekend gambling simply didn't play. Campbell (Jim Sturges) was supposed to have been half-enticed into the ring by his yen for fellow student Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth). But the romance seemed half-hearted once underway. The book knew better. The deceptions and nearly being caught by security time after time took up all the action and made the book a unique thriller.
Movie makers constructed a supposed collusion between Campbell and Security Bull Fishburne to get even with Mickey. The tacked on ending was so absurd anyone could see through it. In fact, Jeff Ma is not a WASP like the one Campbell portrayed, but an oriental. The four fellow Oriental MIT students worked the casinos for nearly ten years and were well into their thirties before they quit. Only near the end of that time were they thoroughly caught, identified and forced to stop. I'm not sure any of them ever graduated from MIT. Ma didn't.
Spacey and Fishburne give routine performances as if they couldn't take the film seriously. I wonder why? In the washroom afterward I told two twenty somethings what a pack of lies the film was and gave them the book title so they could read the true story. 21 could have been a remarkable film in the hands of a writer-director like Dave Mamet. The film was market designed as a cross between Wedding Crashers and a bad Adam Sandler movie. A few of the six college students behind me kept mistaking ordinary lines as American Pie easy laughs, but the rest of the audience stayed silent.
The Filmmakers, who are not worth mentioning, destroyed a perfectly wonderful story that could have been a great movie. They doubled down in duplicity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
MIT professor Micky Rosa (Spacey) recruits some of the brightest minds
there to help him take Las Vegas down by having these students count
cards at the Blackjack tables. Counting cards is not illegal, but if
caught there are consequences.
This movie is based loosely on events that happened in the 1990s when MIT students took Las Vegas for millions by counting cards. The story here is fiction and goes to show how things might have been done.
We knew what they were trying to do without understanding the mechanics of counting cards. And, we are left with Ben (Sturgess) getting greedy by gambling and not counting as per the system. So it turns into a story about some MIT students, greed, betrayal, and retaliation. There's a twist in here. Was there that twist back in the day when this all happened.? Probably not. Actually, the twist helps save the movie. How about that deal?
The acting was fine by all, but I do not know why they bothered to have a love interest story too as there was no chemistry between Ben and Jill (Bosworth). Oh, it wasn't much but it was there. Wait a minute good looking guy, good looking girl Oh, I get it ..Got to have it now.
How, in real life, in the 1990s, were these students caught? Casino people kept seeing the same faces at the same Casinos over a period of time and put 2+2 together. No, this movie did not "catch" them that way.
Usually, when a story is true we learn what happened to the participants at the end of the movie before the credits are run. There was nothing shown here along those lines. But then again, in real life, the students were rotated over the years so I guess that would be hard to do. In real life, there may not have been an MIT professor who managed and supervised the operation so it may have just been the students themselves. The students were told never to come back to Vegas or they would be prosecuted for trespassing. Did someone say "DEAL?"
If you take out the DVD, there is a Special Features section on it where the cast will explain Card-Counting. Good luck with that.
Violence: Yes. Sex: No. Nudity: No. Language: No.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This story is so improbable (even after suspending disbelief) that it
doesn't even make for a Let me see if I've got this straight.
A super-smart geek with nearly everything going for him (but money) decides to risk his entire future by joining forces with a crooked professor who used to be a gambler but now teaches at Harvard, just so he can win $300,000 so he can go to medical school. Furthermore, the professor (who has everything to lose in this scenario) recruits his super-smart students in some kind of organized crime syndicate that flies to Vegas on the weekends.
Oh, and the super-smart geek changes his mind about joining the blackjack group for absolutely no discernible reason. He turns down the brilliant professor. Then he turns down the beautiful temptress. Then, suddenly, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, he shows up to the card-counting class.
Oh, and instead of flying to Vegas and withdrawing the money there, these supposedly super-smart geeks stuff the money into their pants to get it through airport security.
Oh, and the card counters, who are not supposed to know each other, walk into every single casino in a dramatic slow-motion Delta formation -- and gather in the same suite to plan their strategy, as if there are no cameras in the hotel portion.
Oh, and 10,000 security cameras on the floor are not supposed to notice the tall, lanky HOT women obviously and conspicuously CROSSING THEIR ARMS BEHIND THEM to signal the super-smart geeks at the high-roller tables.
Oh, and the super-smart professor who manufactured this brilliant scheme does not suspect a thing when his ostracized prodigy comes back to the fold to help him win more money without the professor lifting a finger.
Get my drift? There are more "roll your eyes" moments in this movie than any movie I can remember in recent history. Not only that, the musical score seems oddly out-of-place
In the ultimate irony, when the DVD ended and I changed over to regular TV, the scarecrow was in the middle of singing "If I only had a brain." I wish he had sung it before the movie started and given me a little hint of what was to come.
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