There's plenty to like in 21. Robert Luketic's direction is stylish, and meshes well with the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas setting that a majority of the film takes place in. Accordingly, the movie moves at a nice pace, and only slows to a noticeable halt during a handful of scenes. The acting is pretty good across the board, not only from veterans like Kevin Spacey or Laurence Fishburne, but also from younger leads Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth. There's also plenty to dislike in 21 though. The main fault is in the script, which suffers from a case of bland characterization and story beats. It's the typical rise-fall study that comes with the heist film genre, and while a admittedly clever twist in the third act tries to shake things up, it doesn't save the entire script from an overwhelming sense of familiarity. It's hard to root for characters when they struggle amid very ideal circumstances (the MIT-attending protagonist's main struggle is the fact that he can't afford to go to Harvard), and so this lack of relatability takes away from any impact that the poker games should have. You never find yourself caring all that much whether these characters are successful or not in their card counting scheme, and that hurts the film a lot. It probably doesn't help that the film doesn't even try to explain how card counting really works, so we as viewers are left in the dark as to what's truly going on.
"Winner winner chicken dinner?" Not quite.
Then his professor (Kevin Spacey) recruits him into his card counting blackjack club. They go to Vegas and try to bring down a few casinos to make loads of money.
As an avid blackjack player it's easy for me to understand what's happening in this movie. They give us insight on card counting strategy. However, if I had never picked up a deck of cards I would have been totally lost watching this movie. It dumbs down the dialogue too much, but then doesn't explain enough details.
That brings me to the ridiculous plot holes in this film. Why are they only hitting up 3 different casinos when they can lessen their chance of getting caught if they do a different casino each time? Also, why are they flying from Boston to Las Vegas each week when Atlantic City is over 2000 miles closer? And there wasn't enough detail explained behind the secret identity concept. Overall, there were too many questions left on the table, so to speak.
But the entertainment value is definitely there. It's suspenseful, it's funny, and it's enjoyable. We like the protagonists and are rooting for them. Except for after we realize that the characters' personalities waver a little too much.
The biggest downfall here is the script and the directing. Both were sloppy. These characters are attempting a heist of sorts--yet they are constantly looking indiscreetly at each other throughout the jobs--perhaps to let the audience in on what's happening. But instead it just feels contrived. And the actors aren't directed to their best potential--besides Spacey who has enough experience to override certain suggestions. But the script needed one or two more rewrites and it would have been tight enough to really work.
With a heist movie we expect it to be slick--which this film failed to do on a couple of occasions. But besides that, it's a fun watch.
Twizard Rating: 75