Looking Back At 21 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At 21

Martin Rayburn wishes he was 21.
Watching 21 in 2022, it's hard to believe this movie was based on a factual story. Given the improbabilities in the narrative, I can only imagine how it must've felt to audiences in 2008 upon release. Nevertheless, 21 still has its moments. It's a relatively fun caper film, colourfully set in Las Vegas, centring on a youthful team of blackjack players out to clean up in Sun City, under the tutelage of their college master.

That college master is played by Kevin Spacey, a producer of the film who feels miscast, as does the lead - Jim Sturgess as Ben Campbell. That's possibly unfair for Spacey, as it's more that his role is not written well, Sturgess though is not able to carry the film and the excessive amount of screentime he is given. However, it's in the 'caper' more than the acting where the fun in 21 is to be found.

This being said, with 21 you need an open mind. Primarily, we're asked to put aside any questions of how a runaway swindler like Mickey Rosa (Spacey) could find himself ensconced as an esteemed mathematics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then manage to recruit students in his class to join his MIT Blackjack Team so he and his young crew could raid Las Vegas every weekend, building up their winnings until dissent in the ranks upsets the gravy train in its tracks. Casino games are fun when played online at gclub but it can be tricky to make something like blackjack gripping on the big screen. 21 employs some clever time-lapse photography to try to achieve this.

The action centres on nerdy but normal Ben Campbell. One of the problems with the narrative is that too much happens to him throughout the film. By the time we've reached the predictable twist at the end, a lot of the dramatic tension has been dissipated with each succeeding development and Sturgess is not able to balance this.

Among the rest of the cast we have Kate Bosworth who plays Jill Taylor, the female lead and the member of the group who entices Ben to join (and later becoming his girlfriend). Her performance is fine, but she's written as somewhat bland. There are quite a few other famous faces in supporting roles: Lawrence Fishburne is wasted as the casino goon, and a number of MIT students outshine Sturgess in acting chops, including Josh Gad as Ben's neglected best friend, and both– Aaron Yoo and Liza Lapira. Spacey isn't really stretched here, plus his character disappears for a significant period before making the unlikely decision to return with his acolytes to Vegas for one last hit.

Running about half an hour too long, 21 is not a film you'll watch time and again but I was just about intrigued enough by the story to see it through to the end.

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