Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, Jacob Pitts, Laurence Fishburne
“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.
I am an Across the Universe fan. After seeing it twice in the theatre and countless viewings at home, it has become one of my comfort movies. I mention this because it’s entirely possible it has given me a bias with regards to 21. I am used to Jim Sturgess speaking in his native British accent, so it’s fair that he’d sound odd to me with an American one. But then, his American one sounded absolutely atrocious. It literally drove me to distraction.
Sturgess’ accent epitomizes 21′s principle fault: It tries too hard. It tries too hard to be intellectual, to be approachable via the “everyman” trope, to tie up everything up neat and tidy at the end. The film is forever straining but never quite reaching that place where the audience can truly relate to its characters. It seemed to me that the filmmakers understood well enough that they had a hurdle to jump in getting your average moviegoer to connect with genius MIT students, but didn’t quite grasp how to make that happen. Ultimately, the film falls back on too many tropes to try and establish that comfort zone, but what results is trite rather than familiar.
21 isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t a particularly engaging film, and when you’re talking about real life story of wayward MIT students counting cards in Vegas, that’s just sad. I didn’t really buy any of it, and it’s a true story. Too many cliches in lieu of character development, too much Hollywood polish when the story should have been allowed to stand on its own.