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Score: 93%
Rating: PG-13
Publisher: Sony Pictures Home

Region: 1
Media: DVD/2
Running Time: 123 Mins.
Genre: Action/Drama/Documentary
Audio: English, French, Spanish 5.1
           (Dolby Digital)

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish


  • Filmmaker Commentary
  • Bonus Digital Copy of the Film
  • The Advantage Player
  • Basic Strategy: A Complete Film Journal
  • Money Pays: A Tour of the Good Life

21 is a movie based on the real life adventures of a group of MIT student who led dual lives, transforming into high rollers who won millions in Vegas on the weekends by counting cards. Based on the book by Ben Mezrich called Bringing Down the House, the film chronicles a group of brilliant MIT students who are recruited by Professor Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey) to form a crackerjack team of blackjack players who either spot or count cards. Prof. Rosa spies the ridiculously intelligent Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), one of his students, and invites him to join the team. With the persuasion of fellow team member Jill (Kate Bosworth), who Ben already has a crush on, it doesn't take much convincing.

Now Ben is mainly in the game to win enough money to pay for Harvard Medical School, since he has been accepted but can't afford the $300,000 price tag. And since he doesn't quite "dazzle" those in charge of handing out scholarships, he makes the plunge into counting cards.

At first, it's all fun and games. Jill (Bosworth), Kianna (Liza Lapira) and Choi (Aaron Yoo) do the spotting. They take a seat at a table and start counting the deck. When the deck gets hot, they make the hand signal and one of the big money players - Ben and Jimmy (Jacob Pitts)- comes over and starts winning piles of money. When Ben screws up and Mickey turns against him, he finds he has dug himself into a hole from which he thinks he cannot escape. Combine that with the fact that Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), security top-dog at one of the casinos, is breathing down the teams' necks, and you've got a big pile of trouble. Can these braniac kids find a way to come out unscathed?

21 is a blast. It's great to watch these kids who are pegged as nerds literally transform into anyone they want to be, just by stepping onto a plane and flying to Vegas. Kevin Spacey is perfect as the sharp professor who has honed his students' brilliance into big profits for himself. He is both mentor and master and pulls off his role sublimely. Jim Sturgess as Ben is completely endearing. I recently saw him in The Other Boleyn Girl as George Boleyn, Anne's brother, and he was equally wonderful in that role as well. Personally, I am not a huge fan of Kate Bosworth, but she does a fine job here, as do the supporting actors. I loved Aaron Yoo in Disturbia and he is quite good here as well, just not as funny. Laurence Fishburne will chill your blood as Cole Williams. When he puts those bulky gold rings on, you know somebody's face is about to get destroyed. He does old Vegas crime enforcement really well.

Although there are only a few special features on the 2-disc set, what's there is really good. There's an incredibly long making-of featurette that really gave me a lot of insight, such as the fact that Ben Mizrich, the book's author, plays one of the casino dealers - Watch for Ben to say to a dealer, "Jeffrey, my brother from another mother." Also, there's a featurette which actually teaches the method that the team used to count cards. We found this really interesting because we wondered what the system was while watching the film. Another notable aspect is the camera work in the movie. When the kids are counting cards or making signals, the camera zooms in and out in a really neat way. It only adds to the coolness factor of the movie.

If you have any interest in Vegas, gambling, MIT or nerd power, check out 21 and you won't be disappointed.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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