21

User Score
6.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 165 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 83 out of 165
  2. Negative: 21 out of 165

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User Reviews

  1. Sep 3, 2010
    4
    If you think the plot of "21" sounds as if it was slyly brushed out of screenplay purgatory, just wait until you see how bland the movie actually plays out. For being a group of renegade college students, the characters really aren't very interesting at all and the actors constantly allow Kevin Spacey to steal the scenes, even when he's in the next room getting coffee. Props to JimIf you think the plot of "21" sounds as if it was slyly brushed out of screenplay purgatory, just wait until you see how bland the movie actually plays out. For being a group of renegade college students, the characters really aren't very interesting at all and the actors constantly allow Kevin Spacey to steal the scenes, even when he's in the next room getting coffee. Props to Jim Sturgess for giving some especially bad narrating, too. If anything, though, the movie's effective editing does do a good job of capturing the excitement and tension of counting cards as a team. Expand
  2. Nov 13, 2013
    6
    21 has a few tricks up its sleeves.
    The movie is smart, interesting, and inventive. The acting is poor, but the script is pretty good. I could have wished for a better ending, but the film is sound.
  3. DaveR
    Apr 10, 2008
    4
    Not like the book, which was excellent. Fun to watch if you just let your mind go for a while and take what comes. The comments about racism? Give me a break. I lived in Asia for over 9 years, a place where you can see some real racism. The producers can be accused of selecting poor actors, but I do not see racism in Hollywood (After all is that not where the ever so enlightened ones live Not like the book, which was excellent. Fun to watch if you just let your mind go for a while and take what comes. The comments about racism? Give me a break. I lived in Asia for over 9 years, a place where you can see some real racism. The producers can be accused of selecting poor actors, but I do not see racism in Hollywood (After all is that not where the ever so enlightened ones live and work?....and tell us how to live and think?) Anyway it is a fun movie if you are willing to open your mind and use your imagination....and yes I read the book as well Expand
  4. CozmikMonkey
    Mar 30, 2008
    5
    I see all the user reviews giving this movie high ratings--saying things like the movie is steady and the critics are simply wrong. These comments, in fact, are fairly inaccurate. The movie is the absolutely predictable, it can't decide who is good or bad, and there are simple, though ultimately trivial, plot wholes. If you think the movie is great, you need to watch real film. It I see all the user reviews giving this movie high ratings--saying things like the movie is steady and the critics are simply wrong. These comments, in fact, are fairly inaccurate. The movie is the absolutely predictable, it can't decide who is good or bad, and there are simple, though ultimately trivial, plot wholes. If you think the movie is great, you need to watch real film. It can have it's moments, but this movie which started out as having cheap thrills, ended with having nothing but the typical, everyone is happy ending. Expand
  5. Asingles
    Apr 3, 2008
    6
    Escapist fun, but not much else. I didn't expect better because the book it's based on didn't impress either. Great story, just poorly executed. Also, many of the original team from MIT were NOT asian, so cool your jets before you play the racism card.
  6. FredG.
    Apr 4, 2008
    5
    Movie is too shallow to be taken for anything more the 2 hours of escapism. It could have been so much more if it didn't get diverted from it's main story. I can't recommend it for more than a rental.
  7. JayH.
    Jul 8, 2008
    6
    Jim Sturgess is terrific, but getting tired of Kevin Spacey in the same cold and heartless character. It's getting old. Good story, not great, but good. It held my interest at least. Well made, good score.
  8. LyleS
    Jul 29, 2008
    6
    It wasn't a complete waste of time or a waste of my red box dollar.
  9. CanaanB
    Aug 9, 2008
    4
    This movie certainly had some potential, and I didn't think it was a complete waste of time. But really, there is little substance here, and I cannot shake the anti-gender / race thing going on in terms of being the BIG player. The 'romance' in the film is lukewarm at best. Also, I wish I knew more about counting before going in, since you feel like an outsider desperately This movie certainly had some potential, and I didn't think it was a complete waste of time. But really, there is little substance here, and I cannot shake the anti-gender / race thing going on in terms of being the BIG player. The 'romance' in the film is lukewarm at best. Also, I wish I knew more about counting before going in, since you feel like an outsider desperately trying to figure out how they are doing it during the film. Collapse
  10. ChadShiira
    Mar 29, 2008
    5
    If Cole Williams(Lawrence Fishburne) is so smart, why doesn't he notice that it's the same petite, Asian woman sitting next to Ben(Jim Sturgess) at the blackjack table? Kianna(Liza Lapira) flags down Ben with a signal conspicuous enough to catch the attention of a commercial airlines pilot. Micky(Kevin Spacey) instructs his charges to never be seen together(especially with him, If Cole Williams(Lawrence Fishburne) is so smart, why doesn't he notice that it's the same petite, Asian woman sitting next to Ben(Jim Sturgess) at the blackjack table? Kianna(Liza Lapira) flags down Ben with a signal conspicuous enough to catch the attention of a commercial airlines pilot. Micky(Kevin Spacey) instructs his charges to never be seen together(especially with him, you would think), but there they are, time and time again, congregated in the same hotel room. The manner in which "21" translates the particulars of this card-counting operation, from Ben Mezrich's best-selling book "Bringing Down the House", makes you wonder why these M.I.T. students weren't caught sooner. Worst of all, "21" seems to forget that these kids are the best and the brightest. They don't sound like M.I.T. students. They don't sound smart. Since the film insists on return trips to Boston, how about establishing the rigors of academia to better illustrate their double lives as card sharks? Expand
  11. JustinC
    Jul 26, 2008
    4
    A poor movie. The camera work was...questionable at best. They tried to make something boring exciting, and it ended up giving me a headache. (I loved the Bourne movies camera work because the style suited that genre) The acting was bland, they should have gotten someone better to play Campbell. I think Jake Gyllenhaal would have been great as Ben. Spacey's performance was one of his A poor movie. The camera work was...questionable at best. They tried to make something boring exciting, and it ended up giving me a headache. (I loved the Bourne movies camera work because the style suited that genre) The acting was bland, they should have gotten someone better to play Campbell. I think Jake Gyllenhaal would have been great as Ben. Spacey's performance was one of his worst, perhaps because his character was boring. He just felt censored, as if he was holding back. Kate did fine. Overall a movie I'm disappointed I paid money to see. Watch only if you have nothing better to do. Expand
  12. GeorgeM
    Sep 16, 2008
    5
    The style is definately there in this film....its glitzy and well polished, but thats about it for this movie....looks good but leaves a bad taste in my mouth. watching these characters work the system and win boat-loads of money is what fantasies are made of, who wouldn't want to do something like this and get away with it all the while living it up and having the time of your The style is definately there in this film....its glitzy and well polished, but thats about it for this movie....looks good but leaves a bad taste in my mouth. watching these characters work the system and win boat-loads of money is what fantasies are made of, who wouldn't want to do something like this and get away with it all the while living it up and having the time of your life??? unfortunately its the last half of the film that made me lose interest and how the story and ALL characters seemed to get dumber and dumber which in turn made the movie DUMB. i haven't felt so hollow and uninterested by the end of a movie in a while. Expand
  13. Oct 11, 2011
    5
    This movie is simply average. The acting isn't really mind blowing even though Kevin Spacey does do a very good job. A lot of the scenes are also very well shot but when it comes down to it the story was actually very predictable and the romance between Ben and Jill seemed very forced. The movie is worth checking out if you catch it on TV or can borrow it from a friend but don't spend aThis movie is simply average. The acting isn't really mind blowing even though Kevin Spacey does do a very good job. A lot of the scenes are also very well shot but when it comes down to it the story was actually very predictable and the romance between Ben and Jill seemed very forced. The movie is worth checking out if you catch it on TV or can borrow it from a friend but don't spend a lot of money buying the DVD. Expand
  14. Dec 15, 2011
    4
    Interesting enough to watch but it didnt do well to hold interest through out and it got really boring. Acting was ok but I expected better from the experianced cast. Just wasnt that good.
  15. Nov 28, 2012
    6
    It's definitely interesting, but It desperately lacks an element of relatability within its lead and supporting characters.
  16. Mar 5, 2014
    6
    As far as true story gambling movies go, it is pretty good. Even though the plot is predictable and a little dry, the acting and the direction is well done. The explanation of exactly how the counting cards system works is helpful in understanding what is going on in the movie. Overall, the movie doesn't pretend to be anything that it isn't. Kevin Spacey is excellent and Jim Sturgess doesAs far as true story gambling movies go, it is pretty good. Even though the plot is predictable and a little dry, the acting and the direction is well done. The explanation of exactly how the counting cards system works is helpful in understanding what is going on in the movie. Overall, the movie doesn't pretend to be anything that it isn't. Kevin Spacey is excellent and Jim Sturgess does a good job playing an innocent youth that is corrupted for the first time. Expand
  17. Oct 28, 2015
    6
    The emergence of Spacey and Fishburne's rivalry adds a different dimension to the film. Without the historical feud we're left with characters of no substance.
  18. Mar 22, 2016
    5
    21 is a perfect example of how something that's "based" on a true story can nevertheless exist mainly in the realm of fiction. While it's true that the source material for the movie, Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House relates events that actually happened, screenwriters Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb have fictionalized the entire story, leaving intact only the central idea that a group21 is a perfect example of how something that's "based" on a true story can nevertheless exist mainly in the realm of fiction. While it's true that the source material for the movie, Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House relates events that actually happened, screenwriters Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb have fictionalized the entire story, leaving intact only the central idea that a group of MIT students devised a card-counting scheme that allowed them to fleece the Vegas casinos. And, while I'm firm believer in the adage "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, " 21 doesn't spin a good enough yarn to justify all the changes. In fact, when one character indicates to another that he started out smart then got sloppy and stupid, he might have been referring to the script.

    Our "entry point" into 21 is Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), a graduating MIT senior who has already been admitted to Harvard Med School. There's a problem, though: Ben can't raise the needed $300,000 (never heard of student loans, I guess) and his chances of getting a "free ride" scholarship appear slim. Along comes Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), who brings with him a too good to be true offer: a space has opened up on his "team" and he's offering it to Ben, one of the most gifted mathematical minds he has encountered during his time teaching at MIT. The "team" is a group of five students who visit Las Vegas regularly and put into effect a sophisticated card-counting scheme that the casinos have been unable to break. Initially, Ben refuses, but the allure of Harvard Med plus his attraction to Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), one of Micky's special students, pulls him in. After a local initiation, it's off to Sin City for Ben's official induction. There, waiting to match wits with him is Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), the head of security at Planet Hollywood.

    The idea behind 21 is compelling - tell how a group of college kids beat one of the most sophisticated anti-crime systems in place anywhere around the world. Unfortunately, the problem is with the execution. Perhaps because there's math involved, 21 doesn't do an effective job of providing the bare-bones details of how the crime is pulled off. It hedges and cheats and employs lots of quick edits but we don't get anything close to a coherent description of what the kids' methods are. It doesn't take long before the film relegates the heist elements to the background so it can focus on clich├ęd interpersonal relationships, including a tepid romance between Ben and Jill. Finally, the movie ends with a series of Hollywood staples, including a chase and a "twist" that won't surprise anyone.

    21 is yet another instance of Hollywood dumbing-down smart people. In order to pull off something as audacious and successful as what the MIT students did, they had to be geniuses. Yet, as portrayed in the movie, they're ineffectual blunderers. Some of the things they do are so stupid that they're insulting. Of course these characters are eventually going to get caught doing these sorts of things. How could they not? Audiences enjoy watching heist movies where the characters are two steps ahead (not two steps behind) and where the narrative provides some surprises. Neither characteristic is evident here. And, in addition, the resolution has an unpleasant "have your cake and eat it" quality. The fingerprints of those demanding a Hollywood ending are all over this screenplay.

    Jim Sturgess, who has survived the Beatles debacle Across the Universe relatively unscathed, gives a nice turn as shy Ben, who gradually emerges from his shell as he gains more confidence in his newfound skills. It's a familiar character arc but Sturgess' performance allows us to buy into it. Kevin Spacey provides his customary intensity; he's fun to watch even when he's not in peak form. His Superman Returns co-star, Kate Bosworth, isn't as successful. Her performance is wooden and she and Sturgess don't click as a couple. Laurence Fishburne is wasted in a stereotypical thug role and no one else has enough lines to be worth mentioning. The supporting characters in 21 truly are one-dimensional.

    Another disappointing aspect of 21 is its sluggish pace. The high-energy Vegas setting doesn't increase the wattage of the production. The movie is a little over two hours in length but feels longer. Some of the movie's last-act "action" sequences have been inserted primarily as a way to liven things up, but they're so pointless and derivative that all they do is drag out the running length. (Are we really supposed to be thrilled by scenes of Sturgess and Bosworth being chased by bad guys through a series of casino kitchens?) When it comes to the other two heist movies currently playing in theaters, The Bank Job and Flawless, the only advantage one could attribute to 21 is the youth of its cast. When judged on the basis of story, excitement, surprises, and character development, 21 comes in a distant third.
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Metascore
48

Mixed or average reviews - based on 29 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 29
  2. Negative: 2 out of 29
  1. 75
    21 drags itself to a climax that puts credulity in splints. So what? In a multiplex of dumb-luck hits, it's a kick to watch Spacey and a gifted young cast use smarts to deal audiences a winning hand.
  2. 60
    Spacey's engaging for a while in one of his patented double-edged, sharky roles.
  3. Escapist moviegoers happy to live out a flashy fantasy get a brief comeuppance and still walk away from the table with a little something in their pockets.