ReviewWriter: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang YangWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Croupier", "Rounders", "Casino"
Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
That's the kind of croupier talk that makes old school casino gambling so attractive. We're not talking about Internet betting, football bookies or even the empire of the late Mr Lim, sitting on top of a certain hill called Genting where the dealers can't really speak English. We're talking about Vegas - city of fast pleasures, misplaced fortunes and instant weddings.
Who are we to tell people not to risk it all when life is too short anyway?
Well, in "21" we are told that risk is not really risk when you apply science instead of chance. See some bloke called Jeff Ma who used to go to MIT (Massachusetts University Of Technology) got into a pretty fix when he joined a group of card counters instead of concentrating on his Mechanical Engineering degree. This compelling story inspired a book ("Bringing Down The House") and now a film from which it is adapted. Why shouldn't the world know about how a geeky maths student can take Vegas for millions?
Of course, in the marketing interests of that same commercial world, Jeff Ma can't be Chinese. He is instead a white Londoner called Jim Sturgess who needed a dialect coach to learn how to speak like a Yank. That's why this film got a rise out of some quarters in the U.S. who found fault in the 'unfair' portrayal. They probably do have a case, considering the original team was mostly Asian - yet in the film, Asians are either the freebie hunters or slot machine suckers. Mr Ma himself I read was accused of being a race traitor for agreeing to cameo in the film!
Still, 'whitewash' or not, "21" got its moments. Kevin Spacey's character as the mastermind hits the spot as a detached, calculative manipulator. Kate Bosworth also seems all grown up now (with all the right meat in all the right places) since Lois Lane in "Superman Returns". Even Jim Sturgess appears clumsily likeable, like he did in "Across The Universe". Whoever said that "21" was meant to be a hard-hitting actioner about card sharks? It works as an 'advanced' teen movie, at the very least.
It's been that long since we last had a casino movie anyway. I'd bet my bottom dollar "21" will entertain - but I count cards too!Cinema Online, 23 September 2008