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Robert Luketic
Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishburne
Writing Credits:
Peter Steinfeld, Allan Loeb

Looking for a way to pay for tuition, MIT's most gifted students recruit Ben Campbell in a daring plot to break Vegas.

Box Office:
$35 million.
Opening Weekend
$24,105,943 on 2648 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Thai Dolby 5.1
Chinese Simplified
Chinese Traditional
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 7/22/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Luketic and Producers Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca
• “The Advantage Player” Featurette
• “Basic Strategy” Featurette
• “Money Plays” Featurette
• Virtual Blackjack
• Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


21 [Blu-Ray] (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 3, 2018)

Who’d think a flick about college students who scammed casinos would become a hit? Although 2008’s 21 didn’t dominate the box office, it did pretty well for itself, as the flick snared a more than decent $81 million and became a surprise success.

Shy MIT student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) desperately needs money to fund his upcoming stint at Harvard Medical School. When his math skills impress Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), the teacher introduces Ben to an underground blackjack club he runs. Rosa recruits his most talented students to beat the system and make oodles of money at casinos.

Ben initially resists Rosa’s pitch, but two factors change his mind. Long term, he really needs the bucks for Harvard, and short term, sexy teammate Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth) lures him with implied romantic possibilities. Thus Ben becomes part of this gambling brain trust that tries to beat the system, something casino boss Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) tries to prevent.

With Legally Blonde as the most prominent entry on his résumé, director Robert Luketic seemed like an odd choice to helm something like 21. While comedic at times, 21 musters more of a dramatic bent, so Luketic doesn’t seem like a logical choice for it.

That said, the director does just fine with the material, and his comedic side benefits him here, as it grants him a light tough for subjects that otherwise could’ve become too dark. While the flick digs into some sordid sequences, it stays peppy enough to keep our interest.

Perhaps some think it should be a grim tale, but I don’t agree. I think it works best as a generally fun and frothy adventure, and Luketic keeps us in that mode much of the time.

Not that he reinvents any wheels, and the movie’s predictable nature stands as its biggest flaw. We’ve seen this kind of story many, many times over the years as an innocent buys into the high-life and suffers the inevitable downfall before a rebound occurs at the end.

I hope that doesn’t sound like a spoiler, but honestly, I could tell you every plot point and I still don’t think I’d spoil anything. One can easily predict the path 21 will take just after seeing the trailer.

This predictable side mars the flick somewhat in its late second act, especially when that “inevitable downfall” occurs. The movie stutters at that point and threatens to lose us. It doesn’t, but it crawls more than I’d like.

Logic questions also come into play. For instance, with eight jillion casinos in Vegas, why do the students seem to only play at one?

Why don’t they go to Atlantic City every once in a while? Why not change the signals occasionally to throw the hounds off the scent?

These concerns irritate me but don’t significantly harm 21, as Luketic just keeps it too bright and fun too much of the time, and a nice cast helps matters. Sturgess has a real Tobey Maguire vibe, but not in a copy-cat manner, so he pulls off the nerdy math geek thing without being a stereotype and he transitions well into Ben’s cockier personality.

Add to that solid pros like Spacey and Fishburne and the acting side of things satisfies, though I must admit I’ve never quite viewed Bosworth as worthy of her mantle as Superbabe. She’s an attractive woman, but in a chilly, off-putting way that I think lacks much sex appeal. She just doesn’t exude much spirit as the object of Ben’s desire.

Still, I like most of 21. The movie suffers too many flaws to be a consistent winner, but the problems fail to harm it significantly.

Instead, it comes through with breezy entertainment. It’s predictable but it’s fun.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

21 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the movie boasted a fine transfer.

Virtually no issues with sharpness materialized. Only a smidgen of softness ever appeared, as the majority of the flick looked concise and accurate.

No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge enhancement. In addition, source flaws were absent from this clean presentation.

In terms of palette, the image opted for Hollywood Standard Orange and Teal. Within the design parameters, the hues seemed appropriate.

Blacks were also deep and firm, and shadows looked smooth and clear. This image consistently impressed.

As for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of 21, it was less stellar, but it worked fine for the movie. The soundfield tended to be ambience-oriented. Some exaggerated effects for card scenes added zip to the mix, and the casino floors also opened things up in an involving manner.

Music showed good use of all the channels and became a dynamic part of the track. This wasn’t a dazzling soundscape, but it brought some zip to the film.

Audio quality always seemed solid. Music was full and rich, with clear highs and tight lows.

Effects sounded accurate and dynamic as well, and speech was good. Dialogue came across as natural and concise. The track lacked the ambition for a grade above a “B”, but it was more than acceptable for a flick of this sort.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio boasted a bit more range and oomph, while visuals seemed tighter and more vivid. This turned into a nice upgrade.

The Blu-ray replicates the DVD’s extras, and we open with an audio commentary from director Robert Luketic and producers Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat that looks at cast and performances, sets and locations, how all the participants came to the project, aspects of card-playing, the adaptation of the source material, and a few other production topics.

The participants provide an enjoyable but generally insubstantial commentary. They touch on a reasonably number of useful subjects but don’t manage to bring a lot of depth to the affair. Still, they keep it breezy and entertaining, so it’s a pleasant listen.

Next we find three featurettes. The Advantage Player runs five minutes, 26 seconds and provides notes from various actors as they tell us a quick history of blackjack and the simple methods you can use to count cards. That made it 2008’s winner for the Disc Extra Most Likely to Get Your Thumbs Broken.

Will the techniques work? Dunno, but it’s a fun little tutorial.

Basic Strategy: A Complete Film Journal runs 24 minutes, 48 seconds and features comments from Luketic, Brunetti, De Luca, novelist Ben Mezrich, original MIT student Jeff Ma, screenwriter Peter Steinfeld, technical advisor Kyle Morris, director of photography Russell Carpenter, production designer Missy Stewart, visual effects supervisor Gray Marshall, and actors Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, and Jacob Pitts.

We learn about the source text and its adaptation, cast, characters and performances, aspects of the casinos and card-playing, cinematography and visual storytelling, shooting in Las Vegas and Boston, sets and locations, effects, and some general thoughts.

I wouldn’t actually call this program “complete”, but it provides a pretty good little overview. We find a mix of nice shots from the set as well as useful comments from those involved. The show creates a positive summary of the production and entertains along the way.

Finally, Money Plays: A Tour of the Good Life goes for seven minutes, eight seconds, and provides remarks from Stewart, Bosworth, Luketic, Sturgess, and costume designer Luca Mosca.

“Tour” offers a basic glimpse of some visual design choices, primarily in terms of sets and clothes. It doesn’t tell us a lot, but Mosca does set a record for the number of times one person says “beautiful” in a short featurette, as almost literally every sentence he utters includes that word.

New to the Blu-ray, Virtual Blackjack let you play on your TV. It offers a tutorial version or free style, and if you connect to the Internet, you can post your scores. It’s nothing you couldn’t get via an app, but it’s a painless extra.

Previews offers ads for Prom Night, The Other Boleyn Girl, Men in Black, Persepolis, Damages Season One, Across the Universe, Made of Honor, Vantage Point and Married Life. No trailer for 21 appears here.

At no point should you expect 21 to dazzle you with originality or intelligence. However, it maintains a high entertainment factor that makes it enjoyable in spite of its flaws. The Blu-ray offers very good picture along with adequate audio and a decent set of supplements. This turns into a fun flick.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of 21

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