Sunday, September 07, 2008

You know, the kids at Yale would never try this crap: "21"

I mean, they'd just pull some mindgame sh*t during Texas Hold 'Em instead.

I admit reading the book on which this lackluster movie is based a few years back and enjoying it. Far from well-written, and I surely didn't believe half of what I read. But it was fun to think about a bunch of MIT students working a card-counting system to get filthy rich off blackjack, only to run into some trouble when some casinos didn't cotton to their antics.

If parts of the book were farfetched, however, then "21" -- changed from "Bringing Down the House" -- is downright laughable. And not just because Kevin Spacey tries to be sinister.

Our story follows, Ben, a wicked smaht kid at MIT who wants to go to Harvard Medical School but doesn't have the dough. But he impresses his professor, played by Spacey, who recruits Ben for their scheme. They don't count cards per se, but rather types of cards. And they do it as a team, so no one person stands out as a shyster. (Genius! Thank you!)

Of course, counting cards isn't illegal. It's just bad for your health, since casinos don't like anyone taking too much of their money. Enter Larry Fishburne as an aging enforcer looking to prove himself against newfangled computers that read the faces of card counters. As our hero and his cohorts keep raking in cash, Larry is in hot pursuit, and eventually makes things tough for our guy. That is, after Ben makes things tough on himself by being an ass -- getting caught up in the high life and sh*tting all over his nerd friends back in Bahston.

There's no point in explaining things further since, well, the amusing idea gives way to annoying characters and -- shall we say -- questionable plot developments.

Spacey is OK at times but becomes increasingly hard to swallow, especially late in the movie when we're asked to believe he would do something I'm pretty sure he wouldn't. (But I did like his little disguise.) As the main guy, Jim Sturgess is charisma-challenged and doesn't have the weight to carry the role. As the love interest/fellow counter, Kate Bosworth is neither endearing not particularly hot. Honestly, it's all been downhill for her since "Blue Crush." I'm not kidding.

Among the other actors, Fishburne is on autopilot, while none of the young kids really stands out. Not even Jacob Pitts, who plays another stud counter and looks nothing like he did in another role you may remember: Cooper in "EuroTrip." I know! This isn't where I parked my car!


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