Las Vegas should thank its agent at next years Oscars, for movie after movie seems intent on showing the gambling haven as a paradise of the 21st century. Be it Fear and Loathing, Swingers or the four Ocean's film, its huge, as bright as the sun, as garish as 80's pop videos and usually really, really cool. 21 may as well have a rolling news feature at the bottom advertising flights and hotel rooms because all I could think for the duration of the film was, 'Vegas, Baby, Vegas!'
Based on the true story of a bunch of MIT students who worked a way of beating the odds and took millions from the Vegas casinos, 21 goes for the loser turns to winner take on the tale. Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a dweeb of the dweebiest proportion, a maths genuis that has no way with the ladies and spends his 21st birthday with his mum. Until, that is, he's invited to an afterschool off the books mathclub by his teacher (the increasingly predatory Kevin Spacey). Here he learns to count cards and accompanied by his new cooler friends takes on Las Vegas.
The 'man I wish I was doing that' rush that you get from certain films is present in every sprocket. This is made more so by the fact that the main character never really puts a foot wrong for the first half of the movie. The counting cards tactic isn't illegal, it works and only some talented people can do it, so if you possess this gift why the hell wouldn't you use it to make a quick buck. Add in an attractive Kate Bosworth and as much comped shit as anyone could want and you've hit the jackpot. Its a movie though, so we need some rocks being thrown but such is Jim Sturgess' manner throughout you half expect him to catch the rocks and start juggling them, which he does. A star in the making.
What could have been another run of the mill 'gambling is cool but bad' morality tale is instead a coming of age ride which is fun, a little dangerous and, yes that word again, cool. This is thanks mainly, but not exclusively, to a well worked script that has been pawed over time and time again until it ticks all the boxes. And you'd hope so as its a Triggerstreet film (a website devoted entirely to the craft of screenwriters). You never know, the formidable box office take for a film with no huge bankable star, not based on a comic book or a sequel, might just make Hollywood sit up and value a decent script. I wouldn't bet on it though.