Review of 21

      2 min read      ·

The movie 21 is based on the book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich. It’s the story of a group of MIT students who spend their weekends in casinos counting cards, taking the house for big money playing blackjack. The book was a gripping non-fiction read. Hollywood looked at the story of college kids taking casinos for big money and said “Hmm, needs more drama.” Thankfully, their additions for the most part didn’t do any harm to the story. Some double-crosses were added to the mix, straight from the Hollywood old-movie recipe file. Laurence Fishburne plays the tough-as-nails casino security operator trying to track down the counters. He’s got his very own totally-superfluous backstory, fighting against the modernization of casino security and the dreaded “biometric face-recognition software” that’s going to take his job away. This backstory, never fleshed out, is the only really annoying point of the movie.

Kevin Spacey is well-cast as the MIT professor who leads the team. Jim Sturgess, an actor I’d never seen before, did a great job as the main character, a genius student recruited to the team. Unlike in the book, he’s an altruist playing blackjack only to raise money for Harvard Medical School, another Hollywood feel-good addition. The rest of the counting team is also well-cast. There’s plenty of glitz as the movie spends most of its time in Vegas casinos, at the gambling tables and in the high-roller suites the team was often treated to. The movie goes a little light on how card counting is done, but that’s probably a must to keep it moving. (Read the book for some good detail on that.) The action keeps moving, and while some of the added drama was predictable, it’s still a good flick.

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