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21: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a shy, brilliant M.I.T. student who - needing to pay his way through Harvard Med school - finds the answer in blackjack. He is recruited to join a group of the school's most gifted students that heads to Vegas every weekend armed with fake identities and the know-how to turn the odds in their favour. With unorthodox math professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) leading the way, they've cracked the code. By counting cards and employing an intricate system of signals, the team can beat the odds. Seduced by the money, the Vegas lifestyle, and by his smart and sexy teammate, Jil Taylor (Kate Bosworth), Ben begins to push the limits. Though counting cards isn't illegal, the stakes are high, and the challenge becomes not only keeping the numbers straight, but staying one step ahead of the casinos' menacing enforcer: Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
No wonder the Las Vegas casinos were happy to let the filmmakers use their venues to film them being milked; it makes it look so easy that you can just about see the cinemas emptying as the planes to Las Vegas fill up with hopefuls. It's another useful reminder that reality usually ends once you're inside the cinema. But that's why Aussie director Robert Luketic will forever be celebrated as a director who steered a movie to No 1 at the US box office (as did Tropfest founder John Polson with Swimfan, in September 2002).

It's a great fantasy story propelled by the fact that it's based on fact. A small group of clever uni students team up under their maths professor and invade Vegas to milk the blackjack tables by counting cards, a demanding but effective way of keeping ahead of the odds that always favour the house. Wouldn't we like to be in their shoes? Wouldn't we just!

Kevin Spacey has a showy role which he relishes, Laurence Fishburne burns darkly as a casino's 'loss prevention' heavy and Josh Gad is a standout as Ben's best friend Miles.

The screenplay, adapted from the book by one of the students who took part in the original adventure, a little studied and sometimes not explicit enough about the system, is nonetheless well handled by Luketic as the team goes through its carefully planned raid on the casinos. Much is made of the fact that Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) only reluctantly goes along with the team and only to make enough to pay his Harvard Medical School fees of some $300,000. His mum's savings of $68,000 seems paltry by comparison to what he can make at the tables ....

The film has a feisty sense of fun as well as a darker underbelly and the performances are great. Like all good Hollywood movies, our hero has friends he has to let down and a conscience he has to grapple with, and the moral issues about gambling are consumed by other moral issues. Entertaining - I bet you'll enjoy it.

DVD special features include the filmmaker's commentary plus a couple of featurettes: 21 -The Advantage Player Featuring the Cast of 21; Basic Strategy: A Complete Film Journal and Money Plays: A Tour of the Good Life.

Published October 16, 2008

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

21: DVD (M)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Spacey, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, Jacob Pitts, Jack McGee, Josh Gad, Sam Golzari

PRODUCER: Dana Brunetti, Kevin Spacey, Michael De Luca

DIRECTOR: Robert Luketic

SCRIPT: Peter Steinfeld, Allan Loeb (book Bringing Down The House by Ben Mezrich)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russell Carpenter

EDITOR: Elliot Graham

MUSIC: David Sardy

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Missy Stewart

RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 15, 2008

PRESENTATION: Widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Filmmaker's commentary, Featurettes: 21: The Advantage Player Featuring the Cast of 21. Basic Strategy: A Complete Film Journal and Money Plays: A Tour of the Good Life.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

DVD RELEASE: October 15, 2008







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