Based on the book “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” by Ben Mezrich, the film “21” recounts Mezrich’s story of big risks, losing it all and his struggle to get it back. The only difference in the film is that five students take Vegas for millions under the direction of their genius math and stats professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey).
Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) has the “brightest mind” at M.I.T., but unable to afford the $300,000 tuition when he’s accepted to Harvard Medical School. He finds an opportunity to earn some of the money when he is recruited by none other than his professor. Ben joins a group of some of the most gifted students Rosa can find on the M.I.T campus. Professor Rosa and the group teach Ben the strategy of counting cards, which isn’t illegal but is deemed to be “simple math,” in order to beat the dealer at Blackjack.
On weekend trips to Vegas and armed with seemingly flawless fake I.D.’s and disguises, the team takes casinos for tens of thousands of dollars at a time, splitting it amongst the group. And while Ben claims he’ll only stay and play until he’s won his $300,000, he predictably becomes seduced by the high roller lifestyle and teammate Jill (Kate Bosworth).
But here, the movie takes a hideously scary turn when the casinos enforcer, Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), takes it upon himself to beat and threaten Ben and kick him out of Sin City for good. Spacey, though, gives one of his best performances and pushes the term villain to another level.
“21” provides one hell of a ride and leaves the audience wanting more and more, engaging its audience quickly. The fact that the movie is inspired by a true story makes the film that much more thrilling especially with Las Vegas as a character of its own. As Jill says in the film, “You know what I like most about Las Vegas? You can be whoever you want to be.”