After hearing about the movie 21 for some time and having been constantly asked whether I had seen it yet, I finally watched it. It was more of a situation where we were at the video store trading in our online rentals and didn’t really feel like taking the time to make the rounds through the store. We were tired. We decided to just grab this one as it was first in the new release section and go.
You know how they say driving tired is the same as driving drunk? It’s the same with picking movies. When you’re tired your reasoning skills go out window. This is my excuse. We didn’t even get around to watching the movie that night; we just went to bed.
We watched it last night and I thought there were some really funny moments to the movie, the only problem being that those particular moments were not intended to be funny. (You may or may not consider some of the following comments to be spoilers. I don’t but you might so read at your own discretion.)
First a synopsis: The movie is about a genius MIT student named Ben Campbell. Ben needs money for medical school. He is recruited by one of his professors to join a card-counting blackjack team. They play in Las Vegas, and make lots of money. This of course changes their lives and things quickly get out of control.
The story was predictable: good kid gets sucked into dark world and can’t get out. The love story was completely disjointed and unbelievable. Then, of course, there were the geeky friends that were left behind and ignored only to have a heartfelt apologetic reunion at the end. Nothing about this movie felt at all original.
There was one scene where Lawrence Fishburne, playing a hardened casino security boss, was asked by his employer to put out a cigarette. He looks over with disgust and takes another drag. This I thought was cool of him; it fit the part. Then he puts it out. He not only puts it out, but there is a slow motion close up of the coffee cup he drops the cigarette into. It’s complete with the big sound build up and canon shot of an important moment. But that’s all there is. He puts out the cigarette and we move on, left to wonder why the cigarette was so important. It never comes up again. This is confusing. Also, when was the last time anyone in a Vegas casino was asked to put out a cigarette?
Fishburne’s character was completely over the top, spouting bad line after bad line. My personal favorite was in a scene where he is beating up a cheater he caught. “You think you can beat the system? This is the system… beating you back!”
Something I never thought I’d see was an intense training montage, like those seen in sports movies, that involved everyone sitting at a table the entire time. The music cranks and the tension level rises only to reveal people at a table dealing cards. Somehow that just doesn’t work for me.
There were too many hero shots of the whole team walking in slow motion through the casino as the crowds part for them. This makes even less sense when one of the main rules that are repeated over and over by Spacey’s character is that teammates never admit to knowing each other while in the casino.
Also, for someone so smart, why would the main character decide to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in his dorm room? When I was in college I wouldn’t leave a five-dollar bill in my room, and this kid decides it’s a good idea to leave his life savings in an unlocked room? Hmm, I wonder what a major plot point might be? Maybe the kid getting ripped off?
The sad thing to me about this movie is that some serious talent was wasted on it. Kevin Spacey is a great actor (think Se7en), Lawrence Fishburne can definitely hold his own(Miss Evers’ Boys), and even Jim Sturgess did a decent job in the somewhat strange Across the Universe. This film did nothing to showcase their talents. The script was horrible, and even Spacey’s delivery could not make his lines believable.
The big twist reveal was completely anticlimactic as 1) the plot was incredibly obvious, and 2) the twist wasn’t that big. Everything happened as previously laid out, just with one little part added. Not exactly shocking.
Finally, taking thing in reverse I guess, but I wanted to save this for last, any movie that opens with the voice over “Winner, winner, chicken dinner” cannot expect to be taken seriously. Yes, somehow the producers actually thought that was the best way to set up the movie.
So there you go. I was tired. At least it was free.