4YE’s Big Movie Binge: 21

Credit: Sony Pictures

Finally here is day two of my alphabetical movie watch. I apologise for the delay. School has continued to kick my butt. But, today, I am finally sitting down and watching the film. Unfortunately, I really don’t think I chose the right film to continue with.

21 is really a drab film. It’s slow, it’s dragging, and I wasn’t thrilled about it at all. The voice overs were pointless. Jim Sturgess really has no personality when it comes to character. Ben Campbell has no personality or life, in my opinion, and it really drags the film down.

Sure, 21 is flashy and pretty and really gives a good look at the life of high rollers in Vegas but it lacks any real substance. I almost feel bad for the real-life people who actually concocted this scheme.

Basically, the story of 21 is that five MIT students – Ben, Fisher, Jill, Choi, and Kianna – form a group that travel to Vegas every weekend to count cards at blackjack tables so that they can earn a lot of money. Ben (Jim Sturgess) wants to use the money to pay for Harvard Med. Jill (Kate Bosworth) used to play blackjack with her father before he passed away. Choi (Aaron Yoo) has sticky fingers and poor Kianna (Liza Lapira) doesn’t really have much character development. Their leader, professor Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey) is a former player but can no longer play after a year-long battle with Vegas security man Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne).

Honestly, for being a heist film, this movie really wasn’t thrilling, dazzling, or, really, anything remotely exciting. It literally only gets good in the last half hour or so when Ben and company get the jump on Rosa after working out a deal with Williams. This film certainly had potential but the build-up never really paid off.

As stated previously, the only bright spots in the film were Fishburne and Spacey. Yes, they’re really only playing the same characters that they always play–rough and tumble and incredibly smart and intimidating as hell and charming, respectively–but it pays off in this setting. By the end, I was rooting for Williams to get Rosa and for Rosa to get his comeuppance. Spacey is definitely an ace at being a slimy bastard. It makes him so easy to watch. Not only that but he oozes with charm, so much so that is difficult to see him as the villain until he actually is.

In fact, I spent a grand majority of the film a) hoping that Spacey wasn’t playing another villain and b) thinking that Williams was the villain. As it turns out, I was wrong on both accounts and was really glad to have my expectations flipped on their head. It offered a nice reprieve from the melodramatic monotony the rest of the film offered.

I wish I had more to say about this film but I don’t. If I try to keep talking about it, I’m afraid that I’ll just keep rambling about how horrible it was. By the end, I understood the narration as Ben relating his life experience to a Harvard recruiter but by the end, I was so ready for the film to finish, I didn’t care. I didn’t care about any of the characters save for Williams and Rosa and neither of them had the screen presence they should have had.

All in all, if you think 21 is a heist film on par with The Italian Job or something like Ocean’s 11, you’ll be sorely disappointed. What 21 is is a drab, dragging, boring spectacle with no real substance besides Spacey and Fishburne.

Shelby Arnold
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