Tuesday, September 02, 2008

21: Grade C

21 (2008)
Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Lawrence Fishburne. Director Robert Luketic.

Kevin Spacey is a physics professor at MIT who puts together a team of students to learn a simple card-counting system to beat the Las Vegas casinos. In blackjack, every card played is shown so you can count how many aces, face cards and 10’s have been played. Since you know how many of those are in a deck, you adjust your betting according to how many are left, beating the house odds.

On the team, Sturgess develops a passionless relationship with Bosworth. Fishburne is the casino security manager who spots the scam after it becomes apparent that the casino is losing money. There is no explanation why the team stupidly plays the same casino night after night, week after week. Nor can we understand why Sturgess doesn’t open some bank accounts instead of stashing wads of cash over a ceiling tile in his dorm room. For a bunch of smarty-pantses, the team is weak on strategic thinking.

Despite the intellectually engaging story, the movie is very slow. “Filler” scenes of cityscapes, neon lights, people boarding airplanes, driving, walking, sleeping, eating, shopping, burn up most of the screen time. The characters are not well developed or emotionally engaged. Finally, 90 dead minutes into the movie, new writers must have been brought in, a genuine plot develops and it’s pretty good, although the ending, which suddenly turns the entire story into a flashback, is lame. Spacey is always enjoyable to watch, as is Fishburne, but the rest of the cast was unremarkable.


  1. Mediocre is the best word to describe this movie.

  2. I agree Blake. What did it need to make it into an Ocean's 11 or a Robert Redford Sneakers or something exciting?