For the past few weeks I’ve been dying to see 21, which is based on the successes of the MIT Blackjack Team of the lat 80s. The team, full of superstar card-counters from MIT (yeah, they was wicked smaht), legally fleeced the casinos and are now not allowed to step foot in a lot of those casinos. I’m waiting on the book at the library right now, but couldn’t wait to see the movie.
Now I’m dying to read the book.
The movie was okay, but ultimately a letdown. As for the table action, they made blackjack seem about as exciting as they could. I mean, it’s blackjack. The game itself lacks the drama that accompanies a game like poker.
For the casual movie-goer, the problems i had with the story will not bother them. My biggest problem is that this story happened nearly two full decades ago, but it is brought to us a modern-day drama.
They make up parts to the story that never really existed, as far as I understand the story. The whole angle around Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburn) is contrived to give the team an enemy from the outside. Also, and again this is as far I understand the story, the professor (Kevin Spacey) is also an addition to the story, and he could have existed as the lone antagonist had the film-makers not gotten too lazy.
Ultimately the biggest problem is that the story becomes a bit too predictable. They fall into the expected plot devices to drive things and also underdevelop some characters. Honestly, I still don’t understand why the character of Choi existed at all. He’s on the team, but never seems to do anything except steal stuff from the hotel rooms.
Our hero, Ben Campbell (played by Jim Sturgess), is likable enough, and his story makes us want to root for him. He goes through the expected rollercoaster ride of someone that comes from nothing, hits it big and then gives into some excess. His love interest, Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. We never really know why she got into this at all, nor what her real talents are. I guess we’re supposed to expect that she’s smart and good, but we’re never given evidence to support that at all.
And then there’s the underutilized Spacey. I mean you’ve got Kevin Freakin Spacey on your cast and he’s so one-dimensional. He’s too likable early and too hateable later, but his motives for turning evil aren’t very clear. Maybe he was always evil, but there’s no foreshadowing to that effect.
Lastly, we have Fishburne. He was okay, not great, but decent in his role as the security adviser. He does everything old school, and then just as we think he’s redeemed himself some, we see he’s a jerk ultimately. Had it all been true, I could have lived with it. But, seeing this is only “based on a true story,” I was disappointed with his ultimate arc. Money Matt, who accompanied us along with his wife, had the best line of the night. “Morpheus has been popping too many of the red pills, and they didn’t have any ephedra in them.”
Wanted to love this. Didn’t hate it, but just ended up being another pretty forgettable movie.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.