My Rating : ***.5
Inspired by a true story, 21 mixes Las Vegas casino wheeling and dealing with college-kid angst: think OCEAN’S ELEVEN via THE PAPER CHASE. Kevin Spacey is crafty MIT professor Micky Rosa, who trains brainiac students to count cards and then flies them out to Vegas to raid the blackjack tables between classes. At first they rake in a bundle, but then catch the unwanted attention of tough-guy security chief, Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) who wants to prove himself before he’s replaced by face recognition software.
Super math genius Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) originally joins the ring in order to come up with the $300,000 he needs for tuition money, but he’s also gaga over the ring’s resident babe, Jill (Kate Bosworth). When he finds out Professor Rosa hasn’t been dealing entirely from a straight deck, Ben’s high-end shopping spree dreams turn sour (though card counting is not illegal) and the battle of wits is on, no second chances given. Spacey is in his preternaturally calm, morally compromised element, stealing scenes left and right; Fishburne brings the hangdog depth; and everything bubbles over the 24-karat rocks, courtesy of director Robert Luketic (LEGALLY BLONDE). 21 is based on the bestseller BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE by Ben Mezrich.