Starring: Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth
Director: Robert Luketic
Running Time: 123 mins
21 is an American film based on the true story of the MIT State blackjack student team, who were trained in card counting to become expert gamblers and subsequently took millions from world-famous Las Vegas casinos every weekend.
This film, whilst it succeeds in being an engaging account of an apparently true story, didn’t ever actually convince me. There’s no doubt that it’s enjoyable, due to fast pacing, cool cinematography and an epic performance by Kevin Spacey, but I found it mostly over-the-top and inconsistent, and I was also constantly frustrated by a loathsome main character.
In fact, I’ll start with that very problem, the main character. This kid is meant to be a genius, but he’s just a shy guy at the start of the film, and yet he ends up as a hugely arrogant and insufferable person by the end. Now, there are perfectly believable reasons for why this comes about, however I felt that there was not enough emphasis in this film on what it was that was changing this character so much; there’s no doubt that the reasons are there in this story, but his development is so rushed that he feels like a fake character who’s ultimately just being arrogant because he’s a petulant teenager, and that frustrated me throughout.
However, the majority of the story itself is pretty interesting and exciting. Even without really getting any of the maths mumbo-jumbo about how all the counting cards works, I was able to really get into their whole operation and be thrilled by the card games, games in which the stakes get higher and higher every time and ultimately become really exciting.
Also, this film is technically very impressive. The cinematography really comes into its own in the Vegas casino scenes, and it really captures the vibe of the high stakes games crossed with the simple thrill of the gambling, while the fantastic soundtrack to this film is one part that really adds to the fun of a story that does at time become a little heavy-handed.
The biggest positive from this film, however, was Kevin Spacey. Amidst a palette of surprisingly mediocre performances from some good actors including Laurence Fishburne and Kate Bosworth, Spacey really stands out in what is effectively a supporting role. When other characters get blown out of proportion and the whole thing becomes a bit of a mess towards the end of the film, Spacey manages to keep his feet and absolutely own every scene he’s in, creating a persona of an almost anti-hero for his character, which was an absolute delight to watch.
Despite that, the final issue that I had with this film was its final act. Like I said, the story is pretty fun and exciting for the majority of the running time, however with about half an hour to go, the plot takes a pretty predictable turn, yet it’s a turn that is almost completely out of character for the people involved, and then when they try to resolve it all, it just becomes a bit of a messy climax to the story.
Apart from that and the horrible main character, the excitement and fun I got from the majority of the plot as well as the cool look and soundtrack was enough to make me want to give it a 7.1.