21 (2008) – REVIEW

by Jordache Wee

Release Date: March 28, 2008
Directed by: Robert Luketic
Music by: David Sardy
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishburne, Aaron Yoo, Jacob Pitts, Jack McGee, Josh Gad, Sam Golzari, Helen Carey, Jack Gilpin, Spencer Garrett, Jeffrey Ma

MIT student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is accepted into Harvard Medical School. He is interviewed as a potential candidate for the prestigious Robinson Scholarship, which will pay for all his school-related expenses. Boasting top grades such as a 1590 SAT score, 44 MCAT score, and a 4.0 GPA at MIT, Ben is told that competition for the scholarship is very fierce. Ben is urged to write an essay which will make him “stand out”.In other words, an essay which will dazzle the recruiter.

During an advanced math class, Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) challenges Campbell with a three door variable change problem, which Campbell solves successfully. Rosa invites Ben to join MIT’s Blackjack Team led by Rosa, which consists of the young men Choi (Aaron Yoo) and Fisher (Jacob Pitts) and the young women Jill (Kate Bosworth) and Kianna (Liza Lapira).

Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) - the mastermind of the team, with Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), Choi (Aaron Yoo) and Fisher (Jacob Pitts)

They specialise in playing with little money just to count cards and send secret signals (code words for the count, and hand signals for starting and stopping playing, etc.), and “big players”, including Ben, who play with large amounts of money whenever this is mathematically expected to be profitable based on the counting. Campbell joins the team. And after weeks of intensive training, Ben is given a test at an underground casino, which he passes.

The team goes to Las Vegas. Campbell’s performance impresses Rosa, while provoking jealousy from teammate Fisher. One evening, a drunken Fisher sits at Ben’s table. Fisher starts talking about the “retard” in Rain Man. He then causes a fight by spilling a drink on the table, which escalates into gunshots being fired. Rosa then kicks Fisher off the team and sends him home. All the while, security chief Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) monitors the blackjack team, particularly Ben.

Security Chief Cole Williams (Laurence Fisher) plays alongside with Ben (Jim Sturgess)

Back at MIT, Ben accidentally botches his group project (by giving his friend Miles the incorrect microchip) for the 2.09 competition. His teammates angrily dismiss him from the project. All of this provokes a severe inner conflict during Ben’s next trip to Vegas. He winds up losing all the money he had that night. An exasperated Rosa goes home, promising that Ben will reimburse him for the entire loss. Ben and his three teammates bankroll the rest of their money. They go to Riviera. Williams finds Ben and beats him up, then lets him go with a dire warning.

Ben and Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth) having an intimate moment

Ben returns to MIT, only to find his dorm room ransacked; even worse, the blackjack winnings he had hidden in the ceiling have been taken. Ben suspects that Rosa is behind it, but cannot prove anything, so he makes an offer: he’ll win back the money he lost, before biometric software takes over at casinos. Rosa takes him up on it. Disguised, Ben and the rest of Micky’s Blackjack Team go back to the Planet Hollywood. They rake in over $650,000 before Williams finds them again and gives chase. The team members rapidly bag their chips, then split up and flee through the casino. During the chase, Ben switches bags with teammate Jill Taylor, and then with Rosa.

Rosa gives Williams the slip by ducking into a limousine just before it leaves, only to find that the bags were switched and the driver is the casino manager. It turns out that Williams, who has been trying to catch Rosa for over a decade, made a deal with Ben, promising to allow him to “make a killing” in return for Rosa. Williams betrays this deal by forcing Ben to give up his chips at gunpoint.

Ben closes his story with the following summation: throughout his life, he won a fortune twice and it was stolen both times. Sure enough, the recruiter is “dazzled”. In the end, Ben is shown walking up the steps of Harvard Medical School.

Reviewer’s Note:
21 is a drama biopic on the lives of a genius individual whose is Jeffrey Ma. Written and interviewed by Ben Mezrich. An intriguing story about “what if” but now forget the “what if” because it already happened.

The film is portrayed in a more of a “what if” plot because Ben Campbell may be smart but he is reluctant to take chances if he gets caught for counting cards.

The antagonist in the film – Micky Rosa is the mastermind for every winnings. He is just the planner and yet getting the biggest portion. Ben was recruited because he is impressed with Ben’s mathematics and Ben eventually needed money or scholarship to complete his studies. Otherwise he will ended up nowhere.

21 is almost like a teen movie retelling in heist crime using genius brains to win. Overall, there’s nothing more you can expect from this film. Predictable.

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