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Slick casino scam tale based on Ben Mezrich's book 'Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions'. Brilliant M.I.T. student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) has got money worries, if he doesn't come up with $300,000 he's going to be kicked out. Luckily for Ben, help is at hand in the shape of maths professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), who has formed a team of students capable of taking on the casinos of Las Vegas and beating them at blackjack, using a technique known as card counting. But as the team start to win, and win big, the glitzy lifestyle soon starts to ensnare Ben, and he begins to believe he's untouchable. With the team attracting the attention of casino security chief Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), it's not long before the stakes are raised to dangerous levels.
Released to Buy:
08 September 2008
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By Cory Peynado, Blockbuster.co.uk
If you have to do advanced mathematics, then you might as well make some cash while you’re doing it right? Based on a true story and loosely adapted from Ben Mezrich's best-selling book ‘Bringing Down the House’, 21 plunges us into the lives of six MIT students who decided to take on Vegas, unfortunately they weren’t aware of how far you can go before Vegas starts fighting back.
Little story - The first time I watched Rain man I dashed out, bought an expensive suit and headed to Vegas. After bravely downing a shot of non-alcoholic shandy I hit the tables and tried to do that card counting thing that Raymond was doing so easily… but after countless thrashings in the many Casino basements I realised that this skill might be a little trickier than it looks.
It has been done though, and pretty successfully. You need talent, a lightening fast ability to calculate and, of course, nerves of steel. A shady and brilliant crew such as this was formed back in the 1990’s, and 21 is the first movie to give us a real taste of what really went down.
Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a graduating MIT senior who has already been admitted to Harvard Med School. There's a problem though, Ben can't raise the needed $300,000 and his chances of getting a free ride scholarship appear slim. Along comes Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), who brings with him a too good to be true offer, a space has opened up on his team and he's offering it to Ben, one of the most gifted mathematical minds he has encountered during his time teaching at MIT.
The team is a group of five students who visit Las Vegas regularly and put into effect a sophisticated card-counting scheme that the casinos have been unable to break. Initially, Ben refuses, but the allure of Harvard Med plus his attraction to Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), one of Micky's special students, pulls him in. After a local initiation, it's off to Sin City for Ben's official induction. There, waiting to match wits with him is Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), the head of security at Planet Hollywood.
As the pressure starts to mount and the walls start closing in things inevitably start going wrong and the plush lifestyle that Ben and his team have become accustomed to is soon put in danger. Laurence Fishburne’s character Cole is particularly effective in showing how much the house doesn’t like to be beaten.
As one of the producers, you can bet your life that Kevin Spacey is gonna be on top form here, and he pretty much runs the show. Anyone who’s been there knows that the atmosphere and excitement of Vegas is difficult to capture on film but all in all they seem to do a good job of it. There aren’t too many surprises to be had and I would have loved to see more of Laurence Fishburne’s character but I don’t think this has let the movie down. Well worth a watch.
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