After falling in love with Jim Sturgess in Across the Universe, I was excited beyond belief that he was cast in the starring role of 21--the movie adaptation of Ben Mezrich's bestseller Bringing Down the House. (Apparently the movie is fairly different from the book, though. Like the main guy didn't have Kate Bosworth for a girlfriend. He's an MIT student, for Chrissake!)
I went to go see the movie on its opening night this past Friday and was not disappointed. 21 is the story of Ben Campbell, a too-smart-for-his-own-good student at MIT who is invited to join a secret group of blackjack players, led by one of his professors (played by Kevin Spacey). They go to Vegas on the weekends and, by using card-counting techniques, rack up a ton of cash. Ben decides to join the card team only to save up enough money to pay for graduate school. "$300,000 and I'm out," he declares. But, well... we all know what lots of money can do to a person...
When I wasn't drooling over Jim/Ben, I was absolutely blown away by the concept of card-counting and the ability some people have to not only do it, but to do it extremely well. There is no way I could ever calculate numbers that fast... that's why I always end up throwing a bunch of money at cab drivers--I get too flustered. It's amazing to me that anyone could concentrate enough (in a Vegas casino, of all places) to keep track of what cards have been dealt and what ones still remain.
The practice of card-counting is technically not illegal, but it can still apparently get you beat up by the likes of Laurence Fishburne. He plays a grumpy casino security manager intent on proving his worth in light of new facial recognition software that is taking away his firm's business.
All I know is that the next time I'm in Vegas, there are now a lot more things I'm going to be paying attention to and looking for... when I'm not at the 25-cent slots or lunch and dinner buffets, that is.
If you like Vegas in the slightest, then you will enjoy 21. If you like Jim Sturgess or Kate Bosworth or Kevin Spacey, then you will definitely like 21. If the concept of card-counting intrigues you, then you've probably already seen 21. It's a little bit long at 2 hours and three minutes, but overall it was pretty much my ideal movie: not silly but also not too deep, good-looking cast, interesting concept, and based on a true story. If there had been magical creatures involved, then it would have been perfect.
Here's the trailer if you haven't come across it yet...