21 makes winning at blackjack in Vegas seem absurdly easy. By using “Basic Strategy” (a system of play that reduces a dealer’s advantage to 1%) and a “simple,” method of card counting (as explained in a featurette on the DVD release) you too can legally* beat the odds at the casinos. Then you remember that Vegas agreed to let this little production film right in its very own casinos, which seems to be a tip-off that it can’t as easy as it looks. Still, as a movie, 21 is a fun watch. Solidly constructed with a batch of decent actors (including Kevin Spacey and Jim Sturgess who made his mark in Across the Universe) it spins out its tale of a real-life MIT card counting team with a near perfect balance of glitz, suspense and moral questioning. Near perfect. One might have asked for an actress with a more credible balance of brains and beauty than Kate Bosworth—who shades a little too far to the runway to fit in. And it might have been nice had the film addressed some of the subtler issues of the morality (not legality) of cheating—and not just at cards. But, overall, if you don’t look too closely, 21 is an honest-to-God winner. (Red Vaughn)
*Legal doesn’t mean the pitbosses won’t have you deleted from existence, apparently.
Columbia, 123 minutes
Release date: July 22