Sunday, July 06, 2008

21 : Movie review

I've put off writing this review for long enough now!! I will also be reviewing The Incredible Hulk. That however is a different story.

Ben Campbell is faced with a very simple and straight forward problem when he learns he has been accepted to Harvard Medical School. He does not have the $300,000 needed for the school expenses. His only hope is a scholarship that completely funds the fee amount. Ben is a soon to be graduate from MIT with impressive scores throughout his academic career. He is however told that there are other people equally qualified. What would really set him apart is the essay he will have to write. An esay that makes his stand out. An essay that will 'dazzle'.
At this time, while he is still pondering about what to write, his mathematical abilities impress Prof Micky Rosa(Kevin Spacey) and he is called for a private meeting of students. Rosa then proceeds to explain that they all go to Las Vegas over weekends. They visit casinos and 'count cards' so as to win money while playing BlackJack. While counting cards is not technically illegal, casinos very obviously frown on it and the pit bosses have a good time beating the hell out of people who count cards.
Ben is trained extensively by Rosa and the other team members. He is taught their codes and secret signals. Ben who is reluctant at first then declares that he is doing it only so he can earn the 300,000 he needs for the fee. He is then thrown into a world of big money, seductive women and high stakes. He enjoys it and realises that he is really good at it. Before they realise they start making more money that they imagined. Ben starts saving a lot of money. One of the team members, Fisher, gets jealous of Bens popularity. He ruins the earnings one night by getting drunk and drawing too much attention to himself. Things escalate and a gunfight ensues. Security chief Cole Williams(Lawrence Fishburne) has been watching the card play and he knows that card couting is happening. He now is alert and on the lookout for Ben.
Meanwhile Rosa shows a darker side of himself and fires Fisher from the team. Ben has been in the meantime neglecting his friends. He is supposed to be working on a project with them for a competition called 2.09. He brings in a wrong chip and this pushes his friends over the edge. He is told to leave the team. Ben is in a disturbed state of mind and loses all the money with him at the BlackJack tables. Kevin Spacey truly shines at this point as a 'Fagin'like character when he tells the students very clearly that he is not their father and he is not their mentor. He tells Ben very clearly, that he wants his $200,000 back. He walks away and tells them to find their own way back home. Ben convinces his teammates that they do not need Rosa and that he has been taking 50% of the winnings while he did nothing. They go solo and visit the casinos all by themselves. Unknown to them, Rosa is in the casino and he gives an anonymous tip off to Cole Williams about Ben. Cole gives Ben a severe beating and lets him off with a warning. Ben comes home to find that all the money he has saved and stored in the false ceiling of his room has been stolen. He then realises that all this is Rosa's doing and goes back to him and apologises. Rosa forgives him as Ben is one of the best he has seen.
Time is a crucial factor here for everyone. A new facial recognition software is soon to be installed. This has a two pronged effect. Rosa and his team will not be able to count cards anymore because they will be recognised by the software. Cole Williams and his security team will become obsolete. One set of people are in a hurry to make as much money as possible. Another set is frustrated.
Ben convinces Rosa to be another 'big player' so they can rake in more moolah. Rosa agrees, though it has been years since he counted cards. They get to the casino in disguises and start pulling in a lot of money. Cole bursts in on them all of a sudden and they are on the run. Rosa asks Ben to give him the money and he takes it and runs away to their waiting limo. Ben in the meantime runs through a different route and comes a little later to find the limo gone.
Cole turns up on the scene and tells Ben that he has Rosa and thanks him. What has happenned is this. When Cole was beating up Ben, he tells him that he was a certain Micky Rosa to be handed over to him as he has old scores to settle. Cole assures Ben of one night of zero security, to take how much ever money he could, in return for Rosa. So the whole thing is basically a set up to trap Rosa. The bag of chips which they earned was switched before handing it to Rosa. Cole tells Ben he can walk away but not with the money. Cole explains that he as at the end of his career and needs retirement money. Ben on the other hand is young and sart and has enough time. The movie ends with Laurence Fishburne relaxing at a resort and Ben recounting his story to the Dean and asking him if he has 'dazzled' him.

The movie begins slowly and picks up eough pace to keep the viewers attention. Kevin Spacey like I already said, simply shines. Laurence Fishburne as the hulking surly Pit Boss - fantastic and Jim Sturgess as the young misguided Ben Campbell. Excellent casting and good screenplay. However, the ending quite honestly fails to 'dazzle'. You know Ben will have his revenge. You know he will get ack at Rosa. You know Rosa is going to burn in hell. All this was handled in an overly predictable way!

So this film gets a generous

* * *

from me.


sivankar said...

The movie could have been better with out any reason. Basic story of counting cards and cheating the system is really good.After that it gets boring

demonMonk said...

true siva very true ..