Thursday, June 05, 2008


Watching the TV series Numbers should tell you that math can be applicable in just about anything. For me, Math remains to still be understood as I barely passed it during my school days.

21 is a film a team of card counters (student geniuses) from M.I.T who went into Vegas to win big money using high level math. The interesting part is (and I’m still googling my way if) it was real. But suffice to say from the few readings I came up with a group of students did test themselves in Vegas with a system so effective they got away with millions.

Now before I bore you into thinking that this is a movie full of math, it isn’t. 21 while being about blackjack and Vegas is also about the journey of lead character Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess). A nerd by all accounts he dreams of getting into Harvard Medical School to fulfill dreams of becoming a doctor. But going to Harvard needs money and scholarship applications are fierce.

His luck would change in the class of Prof. Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) who just happens to be a former card counter himself. Apparently still unable to resist the lure of money in Vegas, this math professor holds clandestine meetings with his select group of students, teaching them techniques and later on make money in actual casinos.

Simple enough? Not so, if watched Robert De Niro’s Casino. Ben Campbell represents the average guy, a nerd, who follows all rules and does all the hard work. He is good with numbers which is why he made the team. The question now is how will he survive what can be described as the jock’s world of Micky Rosa and Las Vegas. How will straight average guy fare with all the rich people, big bouncers, and all the street smart people in Las Vegas?

‘Variable change’ is the term used in the movie. It is perhaps Prof. Rosa’s number one tip in making a killing at the Black Jack table, to always account for variable change. But the term doesn’t just apply to cards; it applies to anything in the story. And it was a fun and interesting ride to see how Ben Campbell picked up on the variable change.

I mistook Jim Sturgess for a rookie actor thinking this is one of those movies who wanted to try out new blood in order that attention is focused on the story. Looking at his profile in IMDB he has a portfolio of a dozen or so films. He came off ok but there was just no ex factor there, his two buddies at MIT were more nerdy than he was.

Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne (who played Vegas security officer Cole Williams) were great. And so was leading lady Kate Bosworth who played Jill Taylor one of the Black Jack team. She has the tendency to overshadow Jim but then again maybe that was what the filmmaker intended.

Chemistry wise the entire ensemble was great. They jelled. Jim’s apparent lack of personality was the only weak link I can think of but the story was interesting enough that I didn’t mind, too much.

I’d give this movie five stars if I can actually use this card counting thing to win myself some money. As it is I only have my friends to gamble with, and as it turns out that’s all I need, especially in enjoying a movie like 21.