Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Movie Review: 21

Twenty-one! No, not the legal drinking age, the magic number in blackjack. The premise of blackjack is simple: try to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. It can be played as a game of chance, or smart people can "count cards," which basically means using probability to determine when your chances of winning are good.

"21" follows a group of college students at MIT who are all math geniuses, and, under the tutelage of their math professor, take on Las Vegas every weekend to make serious money. The allure of money and power is intoxicating. Their team is literally undefeated and (supposedly) untraceable. But the higher you climb, the farther you fall. And there are powerful people in Vegas, people who don't take kindly to card counters.

On one level, "21" is a movie we've all seen many times before: our young hero must choose between his dorky-but-loyal old friends, who are working to win a robotics competition, and his high-rolling, card-counting, big-spending new friends. But then you mix that with a secret identity: college student on the weekdays, blackjack card shark on the weekends. Add in a stellar cast and you've hit the movie jackpot.

Jim Sturgess, who I fell in love with last year as Jude in "Across the Universe," stars as Ben Campbell, the team's newest edition. Kevin Spacey is their teacher/business manager Mickey Rosa, who knows more about Vegas than any of them but never plays himself. The entire cast is fantastic. And I've got to say I loved the last shot of the movie. It made me laugh. "Dazzled," indeed.

Please don't gamble. It's stupid.

On another note, I wish my college had an underground blackjack ring. Just so I could say my school has an underground blackjack ring.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

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