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If there ever was a film that just sort of popped out of nowhere and made a big impression on you, 21 is that film. Having never even heard about the film a few months before its release, imagine my surprise when the final product turned out to be a well crafted, albeit somewhat clichéd thriller that left everyone in the audience smiling.

The story isn’t something you see everyday, but it isn’t going to win any Juno like writing awards either. Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a certified genius. He’s working at a men’s clothing store, going to MIT, and can do amazing things with numbers in his head. After making a big splash with one of his professors, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), who just happens to run a blackjack card counting operation on the weekends. Where were these college professors when I was in school?


As the story progresses Ben eventually joins the team who jets off to Vegas with a system of relaying hot and cold tables to the big players in the group who then make tons of money. Ben wants to get into Harvard Medical School and is only aiming for a few hundred grand whereas everyone else just likes expensive things. There’s a subplot featuring Laurence Fishburne and Jack McGee as two security consultants being replaced by computer software, but their role in the film becomes pinnacle as the climax unfolds and the big reveal is unfurled.


While based on the best selling book “Bringing Down the House” (which shares its name with a rather unfortunate Steve Martin vehicle), 21 is full of the basic Hollywood clichés of friends fighting, jealously, love, betrayal, and revenge. How much is true and how much is liberalism with the source material all depends, but what it adds up to is an easy to follow, great story.

The strength of the movie revolves in the acting, with special commendation going out to Kevin Spacey who never ceases to amaze in the range of roles he can play perfectly. From a serial killer in Se7en, a troubled cop in L.A. Confidential, to the arrogant Micky here, the man has certainly earned his keep in Hollywood over the years. Sturgess also shows off his chops which makes you wonder why it took so long for him to hit it big in Hollywood. His resume is filled with UK TV shows, but nothing of note before his role here. His portrayal as Ben gives an added bit of authenticity to the role with Ben morphing from the character we see him as in the beginning to the mastermind of the operation at the end.


As a faithful adaptation of the book, only those who have read it will be able to determine how 21 compares to such high level conversions like Fight Club, and such abysmal ones like Jurassic Park. Even without the book backing it up, 21 is a great film, and while it’s a bit slow at times, anyone who is moderately interested in the mystic world of Las Vegas gambling, heist films, or likes to see the geek win a few rounds, this flick is for you.

Another second sequel, but this time the third, and reportedly last, outing of the Ocean’s crew comes out better than expected, securing itself as the best sequel of the summer (so far). There are still some problems here, but after the lame outing that was Ocean’s 12, 13 is the magical number for the series bringing it almost up to par with the unbelievable first outing.


The crime this time is revenge, and not so much for the benefit of the crew, but for the destruction of Willie Bank (Al Pacino) who backed out of a deal with Reuben (Elliot Gould) causing him to have a breakdown into a near coma. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) gathers the crew for a big score, rigging all the games in Bank’s casino to pay out to nearly everyone on the floor causing him to lose more money than they ever stole from Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who also shows up.

The story isn’t so much important as the caper, and the unbelievable nature of how everything seems to be thought of before it happens for Ocean and his crew. Every time it looks like something is going to go wrong, the film throws in that traditional Ocean’s twist to show you, and it was planned all along. The double crossing was seen before it happen, the endgame devised before it may have been thought of. The audience is clearly on to most of these twists, but even without the surprises and suspense that kept us in our seats during the first film in the series, there’s a great popcorn film here that keeps you interested and makes up for the other trite the common consumer has had to endure over the last six weeks.


Series newcomer Al Pacino puts in a convincing, although subdued, role as Willie Bank, a Las Vegas real estate tycoon who are just convinced to hate by the film’s opening where he nearly kills Reuben after backing out on a deal for the target hotel. The rest of the cast clearly shows how working together two times previously has put them into a sort of gel-state where they play off of each other very well, although with a cast as huge as this, no one really gets any remarkable screen time, even headlines like Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. The absence of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Julia Roberts is actually played for laughs as both Pitt and Clooney comment on how their respective women throughout the film as a running gag.

There’s a lot to like about Ocean’s 13, just nothing to get overly excited about. These movies may be expensive to make, but it’s an easy cash crop for Warner Bros. as the sheer star power of the leads combined with the marketability of a Vegas heist and the comedy aspect make it a certain hit amongst fans and casual movie-goers. You aren’t getting the same fresh feeling that you got in the 2001 original, but even without it, it’s a good two hours at the movies.