Math becomes a Vegas vice in ’21’

By Gus Bode


Rated: PG-13

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Bosworth


Directed by Robert Luketic

Run time: 123 minutes

The home of prostitution and gambling isn’t fit for MIT math whizzes, but what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right? Not in “21.”

The prospect of becoming rich by counting cards is great, but for one unlucky guy, losing costs more than the money: It incurs the wrath of Kevin Spacey.

Jim Sturgess – our singing beauty from “Across the Universe” – is a math genius struggling to raise enough money to pay for pre-med school at Harvard. And then he meets Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), who promises him his math skills can earn him more money than he could ever imagine.

All he has to do is count cards to predict his chances of winning. It sounds easy enough. A group of students travel to Vegas on the weekends, gamble a little bit and come back with pockets full of money. And, he says, it’s perfectly safe and legal.

Oh, don’t we know better. It’s easy to predict what’s going to happen: Something’s going to go wrong, they’re going to lose all their money and the kid who had everything going for him is going to lose it all. That’s a no-brainer.


But, wow, the film couldn’t be more boring. The previews made it out to be a suspenseful film about gambling and risk, but when it came to fast-paced, exciting shots and plot twists, “21” is incredibly flat. The direction doesn’t lead the audience to take a strong part in the gambling but instead focuses more on the winnings, luxuries and romances.

The dialogue is too drawn-out. The plot is way too thorough, not leaving enough curiosity to the viewers. The “Vegas sex scene” isn’t even steamy enough to produce that slightly embarrassed feeling.

In fact, the pace doesn’t pick up until the final 30 minutes of the film, when Sturgess’ character Ben organizes a scheme to fix his newly ruined life. Still, there’s enough in the movie to thoroughly aggravate an audience.

For one, when Ben returns after getting the life beat out of him by the casino head of security, Cole (Laurence Fishburne), the only thing his selfish girlfriend Jill (Kate Bosworth) can do is express her anger about not knowing where he was for two weeks. Never mind that black eye; he should have called her. Some scenes are better left taken out.

Then there’s the overwhelming feeling that if Ben were so smart, why didn’t he see all of this coming like the audience did? There’s too many of those foreshadowing warning signs in the movie that it’s really just frustrating to enjoy.

Stick with the math homework: “21” isn’t much more exciting.