If ever there was a time the words Inspired by were used loosely, then it is in the Film 21 (2008). The movie version of Ben Mezrich’s novel looks nothing like Bringing Down the House, which was retiled to 21. The movie is a story about an MIT student Ben Campbell (played by Jim Sturgess) who took millions out of Vegas Casinos at blackjack using card counting techniques but lost it all later on.
His dream was to graduate from Harvard’s school of medicine as a tribute to the hard work his mother who put him through education. An MIT would have allowed him to get into Harvard and his plan to raise the $300K needed would have been a full-on scholarship. He and two others, Miles (played by Josh Gad) and Cam (played by Sam Golzari) work on perfecting an autonomous vehicle, which they hope will lift them to critical acclaim.
However, that was not to be because Professor Micky Rosa (played by Kevin Spacey) manages to divert Ben away from the project to his card counting squad of geniuses and the possibility of making enough to pay his tuition fees in just one weekend.
The film unwinds in three stages, but it’s the last one that you want to save your popcorns for. Through it all, Ben who was chosen for his capacity to stay focused, let his ego get the better of him, and he lost a lot of cash in a single night.
The Professor cuts ties with the team and decides to go it on his own, things escalate and Ben’s future now seems uncertain after a brief stint at the top. Events pan out unevenly in the film, although the quality go performance never changes at any point. The cast pulls all stops to entertain. Jim Sturgess, who has barely wiped his Across the Universe sweet off his brows, shows exemplary performance and the prospects of a shining career in the years ahead.
Kate Bosworth, playing Jill Taylor, is part of the team too. She plays her roles seriously, which adds depth to her character as a caricature.
The film wavers when it comes to dealing with the moral choices of the characters as it tries too hard to make their movies version of the novel much more appealing than the novel itself. AS the movies comes to a close, you might be forgiven for thinking that it feels somewhat insincere, especially if you have gone through the book.
It’s a fascinating film, no doubt, especially cause of its dalliance with all the things that make a classic worth watching. But, it did sag right in the middle due to overindulgence. At some point, you are left wondering where the film is headed, and when it will spare your pain of sitting through those weird scenes. It’s easy to blame the story from which the film was adapted, but if you have to point fingers, direct them at Allan Leob, Robert Luketic, and Peter Stein field. Sadly, test screenings did not uncover these issues.