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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ’21’ fast-paced fun despite script problems

    Jim Sturgess is out to take Las Vegas by storm in 21, a new film based on a true story about a group of students at MIT who raked in millions.
    Jim Sturgess is out to take Las Vegas by storm in ’21,’ a new film based on a true story about a group of students at MIT who raked in millions.

    The film “”21″” shares all the attributes commonly associated with the notorious Las Vegas scene in which it takes place. Complete with bright lights, high energy, good music and moments of outrageous hokiness, the movie no doubt lives up to the Sin City standard.

    The film starts out by introducing you to the brilliant and hard-working Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess, “”Across the Universe””) whose life-long dream has been to make it into Harvard Medical School. Now that he has been accepted, his only issue is a lack of money to cover the $300,000 per year price tag. Enter one of Campbell’s particularly jaded MIT professors, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey).

    Upon realizing Campbell’s unusual talent with numbers, Rosa introduces Campbell to the underground, highly profitable life of professional card-counting. Together with a team of other mathematically brilliant peers, assembled and led by Rosa, Campbell exploits blackjack tables all over Vegas, raking in thousands.

    “”21″”
    Rated PG-13 – 123 mins.
    Michael De Luca Productions
    3 stars

    Each weekend, the team of hacks takes trips to Vegas to win more money and live out their extra curricular, high-end lifestyle of staying in penthouse suites, buying top of the line clothes and going to fancy clubs. The conflict in the film occurs when Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), a veteran casino security agent, starts to catch on to the scheme.

    The majority of the acting in this film is very believable. With acclaimed actors like Spacey and Fishburne, as well as the relatively new, yet talented presence of Sturgess, the characters tend to be portrayed in a very realistic and psychologically justified manner.

    One area in which the film falls short, however, is in the script. There are numerous times throughout the film when characters, almost against their will it seems, are forced to say laughably corny and artificial lines. One instance of this is when Campbell attends his first secret blackjack meeting. The dialogue between the seasoned players and the na’ve Campbell is reminiscent of some kind of comic book superhero initiation in which the newcomer is treated like crap until he proves his abilities to the group.

    The script is also particularly shallow when it comes to Fishburne’s character, Williams. This character is frequently portrayed as a stereotypical goonish thug whose only pleasure in life is to beat people up. With little to no redeeming qualities, it is trying to take his role seriously.

    While these examples of bad screenplay writing could normally cripple the believability of a film, the overall high caliber of the actors seems to carry the audience through these rough spots.

    Two aspects in which “”21″” is overwhelmingly successful are the transitional montages and the soundtrack. The scenes in the film are often broken up by creative montages, generally consisting of rapid cuts to the Las Vegas strip or shuffling cards that keep the audience’s attention and prevent the movie from slowing down. These attractive intermediate scenes are also accompanied by appropriate and lively music. Also, indie bands such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Peter Bjorn and John give the movie a fresh, young and unique sound.

    In the end, “”21″” is a solid, fun movie. Its fast pace, carefully crafted music and compelling storyline are sure to offer the payoff that’s expected.

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