3/29/08

21: Sexy Geeks in Los Vegas

21 is based on the true story of Ben Campbell, an MIT student who wants to get into Harvard Medical. The only way he can do that is with a free-ride scholarship. And the only way he can get the free-ride scholarship is if he has an interesting story to tell. Actually, there's another way he can get the money for Harvard... by counting cards in Vegas.

Ben is the kind of guy that has his life all mapped out. And that's the problem. Having obsessed over getting into Harvard his entire scholastic life, he missed out on any life experience that would have been good to write about in his essay for the grant he needs. Luckily for him, he's good with numbers. Very good. His professor at MIT, Mickey Rosa, recognizes this talent and gives him a proposition: come make huge amounts of money with us in Vegas by counting cards in Blackjack and you won't need a scholarship. Ben is reluctant because he has other responsibilities that he set up for himself in Boston so he can't possibly go to Vegas every weekend, but the allure of accomplishing his Harvard dreams and hooking up with the impossibly sexy genius, Jill Taylor, who's also on the card counting team, eventually baits him.

This movie was a great story. Watching someone play cards isn't necessarily all that exciting, but the cinematography used to hype you up over simple math is astonishingly effective. You feel nervous when Ben is nervous and you feel excited when Ben is excited. You fall in love with Jill Taylor just as Ben does and you feel awkwardly embarrassed when she rejects his first kiss. The music, I found, helped a lot with this empathy. A pumping, driving techno beat helped you to feel nervous when Ben was doing nothing more than walking through a security scanner at the airport.

What was really interesting about it, though, was how sexy all the math geeks were. Math geniuses have come a long way from Raymond Babbitt, evidently. The robotics geeks, however, are the ones who look like they should be geeks. These are Ben's real friends with whom he started a project to make a self-driving car.

All in all, the dialog was real, the story was fetching and there was a twist at the end that was both surprising and extremely rewarding. 21 is a movie that not just geeks will like, but pretty much anyone who's looking for some good Vegas fun.