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21 : If only making money was so easy...
Member Name: blades1071
Advantages: Great film, good story with hidden genres, great acting
Disadvantages: Storyline turns a little sour in places
Although I have never been to 'Vegas' or dabbled with it big style, (maybe because I am still only 19), I would regard myself as a massive poker fan. I compete in a weekly tournament and often play at friends houses, top keep my enjoyment kindling. Anyway, the love of this exciting, although somewhat overshadowed game led me to becoming fairly interested with card games and casino style entertainment, and this feeling was nourished when a casino style card game film came out last year. This blackjack orientated movie, cleverly named '21' offered an entertaining insight as to the goings on behind a team of numerical geniuses as they battled their way through the casino lifestyle performing the risky business widely known as card counting. As the actual practice is very much unknown, I was very interested in seeing this film as I have never since, nor previously seen such a movie. I was pretty certain the showing was not about to express the actual tactics which would offer me the opportunity to become a card counter myself , but I still wanted to see the film as I eagerly anticipated the thoughts of what they would have came up with.
After watching the film a couple of times now, I believe I can safely say that it is a great movie. Also, I was pretty surprised at what the film actually showed, although to be fair, I really did not know what they would include. I think perhaps that it was it bit 'darker' than I could have expected. I see no spoiler in stating the fact that there are some scenes that could be described as violent and unsettling. That doesn't mean to say it is a violent film though, as this is well compromised with other generic aspects such as action, love, friendship, even comedy is touched upon in a couple of parts. With a concoction such as the above, it seems obvious that it followed a recipe for success in creating a thoroughly entertaining film, that could suit many different personal favourite genres of different audience members.
The basic plot involves the mega talented Ben Campbell who attends (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). His intelligence is abruptly picked up on by his teacher, Professor Micky Rosa, who subsequently tries to persuade him to join the 'Counting Team'. Although reluctant at first, he agrees to join in order to raise enough money to send him to medical school, his childhood dream. (My apologies if that could be seen as a film spoiler, though I see not much backbone for a good plot if the kid said no, and then got on with his everyday life). Basically, the rest of the film follows Campbell, Rosa and their compatriots, Jill Taylor, Choi, Kianna and Jimmy Fisher on their quest to 'live life the fun way', reaping the benefits their clever system offers. Certainly a good idea at first glance, though it goes without saying that the film should offer many different opportunities for things to go pear shaped and more than just the scheme be put in danger.
An exciting film that has you hooked throughout as you eagerly anticipate what will happen next, as the script wavers between simple going and fast paced, heart pumping action. If you are interested in cards, casinos, Las Vegas based entertainment, I strongly regard you check out this film at some point, as it is a very good example of each of those things. Aside from Kevin Spacey, I branded the rest of the cast as relatively unknown as I personally had no immediate recollection of any of the actors or actresses in anything else. I was very impressed with the cast and feel they all did great jobs, managing to get you to believe they were actually in the situations they stumbled across from time to time.
Spacey plays the 'master' in the film. As with many films, there is an elder character who used to be the best, until he was forced to retire for one reason or another. He tries to offload his skill to the newer generation of players in order to stay in touch with the game he so clearly loves. You get the impression he is like a child, finding it tough to let go though he knows he probably should. His character has a pivotal role in the storyline, and I feel it an appropriate statement to declare that he was pretty well chosen for the role. He did seem to offer a kind of 'teacherly' figure, as well as an intelligent man with a will to earn lots and lots of money.
Jim Sturgess is the man behind the character of Ben Campbell. Arguably the main character, he needed to deliver well in order to give the whole film a good aura. Let's face it, not many good films have the lead character badly played by some lunatic found on the street. (Think -Jim Carrey...) Anyway, although he did good, and I had no real problem with him, I just got the impression he did not offer something extra special. He was not my favourite character, as he did turn a little weird towards the middle, and I basically just wasn't blown away by him.
Jill Taylor is one of the girls on the team who spices things up by allowing Campbell to fall head over heels for her. I think this is clearly her main role in the film as, although a good card player, she was obviously included to force a wedge between Campbell winning money, and Campbell loosing concentration and blowing everything. Let's just say she adds confusion to the simplicity of a hectic lifestyle. I did like her inclusion, as it appears all good films have a good love interest somewhere along the lines. It was she who sparked the ignition that pushed the story away from a plain old boring game of cards, but with famous actors as players. A great inclusion and a good actress that I will certainly be looking out for in the future.
Kianna is the other girl who quite frankly does not have a massive deal of things to do, besides blackjack playing. Neither the lovebird, nor the comic, nor the action hero, it did stump me as to what her inclusion was. A vital part of the counting team, I had to search deep to find if she was vital to the film in another way.
For me, the best character was Choi, played by Aaron Yoo. Not the serious character, he added comical value to the script in a way the outshone anybody else performance. He didn't roam the casinos telling jokes, nor did he walk about the streets dressed as a clown, instead, his humour was dry and almost unintentional. I suppose this could even appear different to other viewers, but I generally loved his laid back lifestyle. Going out on a night to earn thousands of dollars was apparently not enough for this Del-Boy. Apparently, he also felt to the need to steal pretty much every compliment that a hotel should offer, such as sweets, drinks, bibles, you name it, he stole it. Aside from this, he also appeared to be the films 'cool character'. The sort of guy that gets on with everybody and basically enjoys his time. He was certainly a great addition to the film and I would even say it would not be the same without him.
The good guy turned bad guy role was filled with the boots of Jacob Pitts' character, Jimmy Fisher. As the 'baddy' I didn't really take to the appeal of his role, though I do not hesitate to state that he was an intelligent inclusion, offering a little more than if the film should intentionally go as was smoothly planned.
Now, every good action movie stars a veteran cop who likes to mix things up as much as he can. For this film, the role went to The Matrix's Morpheus, or as he was known here, Cole Williams, played by Laurence Fishburne. Excellently playing his stereotype role, he was initially not the sort of character you would love, though it does make you wonder, can a character like this grow on you as the film progresses?
On an extra note, the policeman's apprentice fell to the man known as Jack McGee. He was by no means a pivotal character, and on the contrary, I believe he was added for 'padding' more than anything else, though I think it is useful to state that the eagle eyed viewers would recognise him as Santa from the 1994 hit 'Miracle on 34th Street.'
This was a brilliant film that I loved every minute of. I strongly suggest it be watched whether you like gambling or not as I am certain it will entertain you anyway. I don't know what I expected, but I would consolidate that the film was not how I expected it to go like, though I can say with confidence that I was happy, if not happier with the actual outcome anyway.
Summary: A great film overall, worth a watch should you be a casino fan or not.