Bringing down Vegas

Liat Nosrati

Card counting is not easy, but “21,” a drama about six Massachusetts Institute of Technology students who make millions in Vegas off this legal tactic, makes it look like fun. Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) just celebrated his 21st birthday and has a lot on his mind. One of the brightest students at MIT, he recently got accepted to Harvard Medical School as a transfer – but he can’t afford it. Winning a scholarship providing him a full ride to Harvard is Ben’s best bet until his math professor, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), approaches him with an offer. Micky is coaching an underground team of card counters. The team consists of six MIT whiz kids who fly to Vegas every weekend to put their math skills to good use and have some fun while they’re at it. Micky informs Ben of the money to be made if he joins the team. Ben is reluctant to join at first, but a visit from his seductive classmate and crush, Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), who is on the team, changes his mind. This is when the movie turns into a math lesson. Ben is not a blackjack player, so the team explains how the game is played and how they use simple math to beat it. They insist that it only takes simple math to beat the game, but their method is a little hard to follow, especially if the viewer does not know much about blackjack. Engaging in a bit of blackjack play to win online is sure to get people up to speed with the game. Either way, the counter has to be good with numbers in order to pull it off. For some untold reason, the team keeps going back to the same casino, weekend after weekend. Suspicious enough? The PG-13 film is based on the 2003 nonfiction book, “Bringing Down the House,” by Ben Mezrich. Instead of it being a summation of the book, it’s more like a Hollywood rundown.”21″ is directed by Robert Luketic, who also did “Legally Blonde,” but this film is of a different caliber. Luketic took something that could have been boring and made it entertaining. Sturgess is stunning as the innocent and shy kid who eventually turns into a Gucci-wearing playboy on the weekends. The same can’t be said about Bosworth. Bosworth was supposed to be the pretty girl with a captivating attitude, but she was more like the mousy-haired girl with no personality. She fell short in trying to convince the audience that she is the leading lady. Although Spacey flunked basic math in high school, he is a great pretender. His acting really came in handy when trying to portray a man that teaches card counting for a living. While the acting was decent, the cinematography amazed with close-ups that gave character even to a playing chip. The soundtrack was awesome, featuring new music from the band MGMT in the opening scene of the film. Although “21” gives a pretty good outline of how to beat blackjack, it is not just informative; it’s dazzling.Grade: A-


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