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21 (2008)   rating

Review: written 2008

Maths Made Sexy

21 (2008)

Maths and card-playing do not seem to be subjects to light up the screen with energy, but the director here has a fair stab at doing just that.

`Inspired' by a true story, an epithet which presumably allows them great license with the facts, we follow the seemingly nerdy but brilliant Ben Campbell. He is an MIT student desperate to get funds for his Harvard aspirations, who falls in with a group of students who win large amounts of money by `card-counting' at Blackjack in Vegas, led by their maths professor (Kevin Spacey). We see his gradual corruption as the girls, money and high rolling lifestyle lure him to push himself further. And then of course, things start to unravel. Unfortunately, the story does not explore the moral murkiness of the events very far, and manages to drag things out just a little longer than it might have. Still, the pace is peppy, the direction as energetic as the subject can let it be, showing an improvement on the director's previous fare `Mother-in-Law' and `Win a date with Ted Hamilton', and has a decent soundtrack to keep momentum up.

The cast all perform acceptably, with Kevin Spacey hardly stretching himself but still successfully filling out an important part. Kate Bosworth looks stunning no matter which disguise she is wearing, and Jim Sturgess as Ben makes the transition from naïve nerdy wannabe to cocky highroller and finally to `wiser-than-his-years' young man.

All told, a young sexy cast, veteran actor for gravitas, and a soupcon of moral ambiguity make for an entertaining and worthwhile couple of hours, but falls short of being inherently memorable.

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