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"21" ** 1/2

Monday March 24, 2008

I wasn't optimistic about this one beforehand based on the track records of director Robert Luketic (his latest was the almost universally panned Jane Fonda vehicle "Monster-In-Law") and co-writer Peter Steinfeld ("Be Cool" & "Analyze That"). Another instance where the trailer was terrific but the product wasn't. Although not terrible, there was something missing from this "based on real events" tale (from Ben Mezrich's best-selling book "Bringing Down The House"). Kevin Spacey and Lawrence Fishburne lend credibility to this project about a "nerdy" (who just happens to look like Tom Cruise down to his "Rainman" hair due) MIT undergrad (played earnestly by Jim Sturgess-"Across The Universe") who is enlisted by his professor (Spacey) to join a group of fellow students to beat the house counting cards in Vegas. The film is given the typical Hollywood glitz by including, as the only female in the outfit, easy-on-the-eyes Kate Bosworth ("Superman Returns"). The obvious love interest ensues and the, at times, music video look of the film adds nicely to the Vegas locale. Unfortunately, the script doesn't give the actors very much room to maneuver and, because of that, doesn't allow the talents of Spacey and Fishburne to rise to the level of their capabilities. There are a couple of plot twists that, if you're paying attention, you will have figured out for the most part. Throw in the cliche characters (the heavy set nerdy friend, for example) and you're left with a film that is quickly forgotten after the lights go up.