21 ~ A Movie Review

You know you never know what it’s like till you’re knee deep into things.  Since being in school for as long as I have been, I am realizing that graduate school was just like that. You just didn’t quite know what you were getting yourself into.  But, it was like a religion, a passion that you had to get there, because once you were there, you deserved to be there.

When I saw 21 I understood what Ben wanted. I knew what it felt like to have everything fall into place and have the money not be there. I had gotten into 2 different graduate schools, and the financial support was available at the lesser school, not at the school that I had wanted to go to and was working at. It was the 1590 on the SAT, the 44 on the MCAT, it was that Harvard Medical School was meant to be. It was something that just was instinctive. Now, now it was $310,000 that stood between him and his future.

Staring James Sturgess (Across the Universe), Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, Superman Returns), Laurence Fishbourne (The Death and Life of Bobby Z, Rise of the Silver Surfer, Matrix Series), and Kevin Spacey (of Usual Suspects fame).  This movie brings you from the cold streets of Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to the bright lights and rough streets of Las Vegas, where money was won and lost with the blink of an eye.

What’s their game you say? Blackjack. Why’s that? It’s beatable. Yes folks, even now, I can tell you that blackjack remains a beatable game. To this day there are math classes taught to learn how to discretely and statistically win at cards. This was no different. Started by Mickey Rosa (played by Spacey) a group of MIT students decided to take Vegas for all it was worth.  By working in tandem, it’s totally possible to beat Vegas…and they took the city for millions.

Based very loosely on the book by Ben Mezrich, this movie is a high action movie of love, passion, sex, drugs, and money, lots of money. It’s not about the math either. There’s no math in the movie.  James Sturgess plays an amazing part, with the range of the high that it was to get into Harvard Med, the low of not being able to pay for it, and what it takes to cause a life to go into such a direction.  His only interest was accomplishing a goal, and by joining the MIT Blackjack team, he knew that he could gain the money needed to go to Harvard Medical School. However, once he was on the team, it became far more than just a ‘business’.  It was quick, the resentment towards the management, and it showed.  It was very quickly realized that management had a lot of power both in Vegas, where Ben’s existence gets shattered, to Boston, where futures get shattered.  

Kate Bosworth is starting to get type cast in this secondary not strong but not weak woman. I don’t like seeing her in this part.  She started her career with some strong roles, Blue Crush, Rules of Attraction, they were strong roles, strong women. From this to Lois Lane (although she was a strong character there) to the Girl in the Park, to 21, I’m ready for Kate to get back to the strong characters that she once was so good at.

Kevin Spacey…what can you say about this guy? Mickey Rosa was a dynamic part for Spacey.  From teacher to player, to ruthless businessman, Spacey personified why he’s so well known for playing the good bad guy. He can switch from compassionate to ruthless in one foul swoop.  This part was made for him, brought you back to the Usual Suspects where he threw you a loop you never expected.  

As a viewer, you walk out of 21 thinking that you could take Vegas for everything. That as long as you have your friends, and a bit of probability behind you, you two could take the house for millions of dollars. The reality of what was the MIT Blackjack team? There are countless rumors that they took both Las Vegas and Atlantic City for millions.  They functioned from 1979 to early 2000’s. The team changed the face of both Atlantic City and Las Vegas.    

Special thanks to IMDB and Wikipedia for investigation of the MIT Blackjack team.  Mezrich’s four non-fiction as well as his countless fiction books can be found through the typical places, and his official website is benmezrich.com. He can be seen on the GSN World Series of Blackjack and the World Blackjack Tour.  I highly recommend this movie, it’s intriguing, interesting, and captivating….well worth the matinee price, and I might have even gone back for the full price.


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