out of Five
Running time: 118
Disappointing thriller that's let down by a tedious script, a frankly ridiculous final act and some dodgy overacting by Kevin Spacey.
What's it all about?
Loosely based on a true story, 21 stars Jim Sturgess as Ben Campbell, a brainy MIT student trying to come up with the tuition fees for a place at Harvard Med School. Then his unconventional maths professor, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) asks him to join a secret group of whizz-kids who spend their weekends in Las Vegas counting cards and making big bucks at blackjack.
Initially, Ben is reluctant to join the team, but he's tempted by campus hottie and fellow whizz-kid Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), so he signs up, intending to make just enough to pay for his tuition fees and then get out. However, the Vegas lifestyle starts to go to his head and soon he's bitten by the gambling bug and hooking up with Jill, ignoring his geeky, robot-building best friends (Josh Gad, Sam Golzari) in the process.
Sturgess makes a likeable lead and even Kate Bosworth is less annoying here than she has been elsewhere. There's also strong support from Aaron Yoo (Disturbia) and Lisa Lapira as Ben's fellow teammates, both of whom manage to create memorable characters from largely underwritten roles.
However, the low-key, decent performances are heavily overshadowed by a seriously dodgy piece of overacting by Kevin Spacey, while Laurence Fishburne is saddled with a thankless role as a casino security expert and looks thoroughly bored throughout. Similarly, director Robert Luketic struggles to make blackjack exciting on screen, so the gambling scenes lack tension.
However, the film's biggest problem is a tedious script that veers from vomit-worthy moralising to lazily written plot twists before stalling altogether with a badly written and extremely disappointing finale.
In short, 21 is never less than watchable but it's nowhere near as much fun as it should have been. Disappointing.