There's something always a little... off about big budget Hollywood movies telling us that greed is bad when they're written by, directed by and starring people who make more money than pretty much anyone reading this. Fortunately, 21 is too busy being flashy to spend much time hammering home its tired message that making money is evil because it causes you to lose touch with who you are (seriously: as if everyone making this movie didn't ditch their old friends as soon as they started making it big in the movies). Unfortunately, 21 is also too busy being flashy to do pretty much anything else, which is kind of a problem when a movie goes for almost two hours. Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a nerdy maths whiz at M.I.T. struggling to scrape up enough money to go to Harvard when his professor Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey) invites him to join a little card-counting club they've got going on. Card-counting is a way of tipping the odds in your favour when playing blackjack, AKA 21, and with Ben's brain on side this card counting crew can fly out to Vegas and make some serious money. Which they proceed to do, until the inevitable rift within the group causes Mickey's dark side to show itself. Of course, by then Ben is getting it on with a fellow card counter played by Kate Bosworth, so it's not like he really has much to complain about. With a by-the-number plot that's pretty silly the moment you think about it (if they have to be so careful about their identities in the casinos, why do all the casino greeters know who Ben is? Why, for that matter, doesn't he think of a better place to hide his profits?) but plenty of glitz and glamour as the crew live it up in Vegas 21 is as slick and enjoyably forgettable as movie-making gets.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #428)