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| Friday, March 28, 2008

Much like a certain desert oasis in Nevada, director Robert Luketic's "21" possesses plenty of glitz and glamour. But, unlike the Ben Mezrich book the film is based on -- "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" -- it lacks a lot of substance.

The main character of the film is Ben Campbell (James Sturgess, "Across the Universe"), a genius in math and a top student at MIT.

Ben's lone problem is his lack of funds, especially considering his goal of attending Harvard Medical School. When he's recruited by a slick-talking MIT professor named Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) to join his team of blackjack card counters, the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars scammed from Vegas casinos is too much to pass up.

Eventually, Ben gets the hang of the scam, and a whole new world is opened up to him -- including the beautiful Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth). Once the money starts piling up, Ben catches the ire of Micky, his fellow card counters and a no-nonsense casino boss named Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne). It will take quite a bit of finagling to find his way back to his routine life.

Fishburne and Spacey provide much of the spark for the cast, as the rest of the pack -- even the talented Sturgess -- is merely mediocre.

That's the least of the problems here, though.

Luketic tends to rely on the flash and dash of Vegas instead of giving the story a solid plot and script to stand on. There's not much depth here, and viewers would be wise to skip the popcorn and head to the bookstore for the enjoyable read from Mezrich.

• In wide release Additional Information:


Rated PG-13 for some violence, and sexual content including partial nudity Two stars

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