Review: 21

21 was great, if you like ill-paced movies with recycled plotlines.

After enjoying other such pictures about genius kids (Real Genius) and breaking the bank at Las Vegas casinos (Ocean's 11), I hoped for a tight, enjoyable romp, with a good "nerd + hot chick" love story and lots of nerd-rific references--sort of like War Games in Vegas.

Yeah, not so much.

The elevator pitch is dynamite: MIT students act as a team to count cards at Vegas blackjack tables, facing opposition from the latest technology (biometric scanners) and old-school Vegas security men, as well as internal turmoil. Somewhere between there and adapting the bestselling fact-cum-fiction book Bringing Down the House, this movie becomes a mess of recycled ideas and predictability. By the end, I was rooting for security guards to nab the lot of them. They're just annoying people we're given no reason to care about.

Some highlights:

  • Classroom discussion of The Monty Hall problem

  • Scene-stealing nerd-rific stuff from the main character's pals, protoypical bookworm, never-had-a-date geeks.

  • A few laugh-out-loud moments...

  • Lawrence Fishburne. Tremendous! I was rooting for this guy from the first scene he appeared in, and he didn't disappoint--strong, mysterious, deep. He was the only real character in the movie to me.

  • The cinematography is excellent. They capture the stark, overexposed, morning-after blaze of Vegas sunlight perfectly. It makes you want to shrivel behind dark curtains until the sun goes down again...exactly what it was like when I was there.

Some lowlights:

  • The editor should be ashamed. This is a 90 minute movie that ran 123 minutes. The lovestory feels forced and Kate Bosworth is her usual unattractive self.

  • Kevin Spacey. He seems to play the same creepy guy...though I would've loved it had he ended one of his unemotive rants with, "Now I've got to get back to K'Pax".

  • "I'm sure we can carry-off this pointless crowd-shot if we just crank the techno music to 11, flash strobe some lights, and show strippers with their clothes still on." Yeah, that's 20 minutes of this movie, and it's 19 minutes too much.

I know it's an adapted screenplay, but geeze!

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