When will Hollywood learn that watching people play cards is not fun? Their latest attempt to make a card game look exciting is 21, one of the worst movie experiences I have ever had in my life. The story follows Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), a genius MIT student who has just been accepted into Harvard Medical School. But Ben has a bit of a problem. In order to attend the college of his dreams, Ben needs over $300,000. As many of us know, that kind of money isn't very easy to come by. But Ben's prayers might be answered by a higher power in the form of his teacher Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey). Every weekend, Rosa and 4 of his most gifted students go to Vegas and return home hundreds of thousands of dollars richer. Their secret: counting cards. After Ben impresses Rosa by solving a problem that even I knew how to do (and I didn't even go to MIT!), Micky ultimately deduces that Ben must be a genius and therefore he is a perfect candidate to join his blackjack team. After some cliche moments of Ben dipping his feet into the water, he finally decides to jump in the pool and join his teachers squad. But as he begins to feel the highs of winning, will Ben take it too far and end up destroying all that he built up? Of course! If he didn't, they wouldn't have a very interesting movie would they?
Actually, this movie wasn't very interesting anyway. As I watched the first 15 minutes of 21, I had the strongest sensation to pull on my hair, just to ease the pain. Needless to say, I was bored senseless and I was at wit's end trying to find a way to stay awake during this predictable, unentertaining, soporific, mildly moronic hamfest. The plot turns and twists were cliche and easily recognizable 5 minutes before they even happened. The card counting scenes were uninspired and only interesting the first time you view them. But as the movie progresses and you feel as though you are watching the same scene over and over again, you get the strangest feeling that you could have stayed home and watched the World Series of Poker Tournament and had the same amount of excitement. After just one hour of 21, I was ready to count all my chips and just walk away...but my friend was my ride home and he didn't want to leave. Damn him.
Jim Sturgess is absolutely terrible as Ben Campbell. Throughout the entire film, his face remained expressionless, and his voice a near whisper. Even as he did the voiceover, the dynamics of his voice never raised and never fell. It was always the same. The romance between him and fellow teammate Jill, played plainly by Kate Bosworth, was utterly dreadful and often made me cringe at the sheer unconvincing manner in which it is acted out. This is another textbook case of a role going to a person based solely on their looks. Kevin Spacey does a fine job as the teacher Micky Rosa, which is no surprise because Spacey is an excellent actor, and is very capable of creating great moments in bad movies (see Superman Returns). Laurence Fishburne is extremely one dimensional and characterless as the casino's security enforcer. It is also very evident that his role was exaggerated greatly for the sake of the film, as he takes cheaters into a boiler room and beats them to a bloody pulp. I'm pretty sure that in real life, the only authority he has is to politely ask the person to leave.
21 was directed by Robert Luketic, who's previous credits contain Legally Blonde, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton, and Monster In-Law. It isn't exactly the best resume is it? Sadly, he will have to add one more dud to his list of "accomplishments" with this lame excuse for a movie. His overall directing style is lacking and he does very little to keep your interest peaked through even the "exciting" moments of the film. The writing is average and the attempts to wow us by displaying the main characters brilliance fail miserably, making me feel as if I could go to MIT and be just as smart as everyone else.
What makes 21 even worse is the fact that it is way too long. It also doesn't help that every minute of the 123 minutes was boring due to the aforementioned bad acting, directing, and writing. I began to fidget restlessly in my chair thinking the movie was almost over, only to discover that I was only 1 hour in. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a hell, and I was there. 21 was extremely predictable and was so uneventful that I could barely keep my eyes open for the duration. I had gone into this film with very low expectations, and came out discovering I was right on the money about every assumption I had made previous to watching this movie. Jim Sturgess must stick to minor roles because that is all his talent allows for, Kevin Spacey needs to start picking better movies to star in, and Hollywood must stop thinking that movies about playing cards are fun. They suck, just accept it. My rating (3/10)