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Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “21 (Two-Disc Special Edition)”

(Sony Pictures. 2008. 2 hours, 2 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some violence, and sexual content including partial nudity. Directed by Robert Luketic.) Kevin Spacey (Micky Rosa), Jim Sturgess (Ben Campbell), Kate Bosworth (Jill Taylor), Laurence Fishburne (Cole Williams), Liza LaPira (Kianna), Josh Gad (Miles), Jacob Pitts (Fisher), Aaron Yoo (Choi). Music by David Sardy.


Just-OK movie, based on Ben Mezrich’s book Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions. Ben is a brilliant student who’s been admitted to Harvard Medical School, but he needs serious cash for tuition (how do all those other med students go to school?). He’s persuaded to join a secret student group of card counters, headed by Professor Rosa, who travel to Vegas on weekends to take the casinos for whatever they can. At first Ben enjoys the spoils of success, but a creeping unease enters his conscience, despite reassurances from Rosa (“card counting is not illegal,” he keeps chirping). Keeping an eye — and sometimes a fist — on suspicious winners is Cole, a casino security watchdog who starts to sniff after Ben. I liked Sturgess as Jude in Across the Universe, but it’s hard to develop sympathy, or maintain interest, in his character here; he’s cute and looks great once he cleans up, but he just makes too many bone-headed moves. Spacey puts in an expected Spacey performance; no surprises. Bosworth looked better a few years ago, before she shrunk to the now-required size zero. You don’t really get to know who the others are, so after a while the whole thing starts to play like an slick, extended commercial from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. Some featurettes on the second disc involve blackjack strategy; clothes, luxuries and Vegas locations; and casting. There’s also a bonus digital copy of the film.