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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2008!
Directed by Robert Luketic
Starring Jim Sturgess and Kevin Spacey
"21" is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings.
The keys points to storytelling was taught to me and many others in grade 9 English class while learning Shakespeare. It's all about Plot, Theme and Character. You need all three of these elements to mesh together in order for a great story to be told. As a critic you learned these rules but forget about them through the years. But sometimes a film reminds you of these basic rules and 21 is it.
21 is based on a best selling true story book called Bringing Down the House. It's a great book and story that is even better because it was true -- but Hollywood unfortunately found a way to screw it up.
They got the Plot (from the really good book), they got the Theme (Greed - a good universal theme that many of us deal with, even though some would say it's a bit overused in films these days), but they seemed to have forgotten about the Characters.
We meet a lot of characters in this piece but we really don't know anybody at all. The lead character's motive to join the card counting team is because he needs to pay for Harvard Medical school. But why? He's a smart kid yes, but we never really know why he wants to become a doctor. In fact, we really don't get to know anyone's passion in this film. No passion equals no one for the audience to emotionally attached themselves to.
Because we don't get to know the characters, we really don't care about what really happens. The film clicks at just over 2 hours and from this viewers perspective I saw a good 15 minutes that could of been cut entirely. And because we don't care about the characters, those two hours flow very slowly. I was left wondering at the 90 minute mark when this film was finally going to end.
There are a lot of things I really like about this film too. Following very smart people doing very smart things is usually a lot of fun. Perhaps what I liked was the potential for it to actually be a good film.
What happens when you lose interest in a film like this is that you tend to start to nitpick for no other reason. You spot continuity errors and you see who the director pays homage to (or steal from) in the editing and directing of the film. I saw a Martin Scorsese 'Casino' shot where money is thrown in the air like it doesn't mean anything, a Pretty Woman shopping montage and many Fight Club-ish camera tricks just for the sake of having camera tricks. You kind of wonder why Kevin Spacey (who Produced and co-stars in the film) resorted himself to a film like this. He seems to have a sharp eye for quality scripts and themes that audiences will take to. He's on auto-pilot in this film as an actor and as the man in charge Producer. I'm sure his paycheck was nice, but you sort of wish that he would of given us something better.
2 stars out of 4
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