21Columbia Pictures (Blu-ray)
Inspired by the true story of MIT students who mastered the art of card counting and took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings. Looking for a way to pay for tuition, Ben Campbell finds himself quietly recruited by MIT's most gifted students in a daring plot to break Vegas. With the help of a brilliant statistics professor and armed with fake IDs, intelligence and a complicated system of counting cards, Ben and his friends succeed in breaking the impenetrable casinos. Now, his challenge is keeping the numbers straight and staying one step ahead of the casinos before it all spirals out of control.
I didn’t pay much attention to this one during its theatrical run as the trailers made this look like one of those all style, no substance type of films. Luckily it proved better than that. Cards are all the rage right now and this film tells an interesting story of a group of MIT students that are recruited by a teacher to go in on a counting scheme in Las Vegas for big money. The math wizards are great at their job but the casinos don’t appreciate being taken by their scheme. Overall this one is pretty by the numbers but I enjoyed the pace and style.
21 was shot in HD using the Genesis digital camera and the results vary a bit. Like most digitally captured films, there is plenty of detail and depth in the imagery. The image has a consistently clean look and I can understand why people like that razor sharp imagery afforded by the digital capture. My only complaint is motion. For some reason motion seems strange in this film with a floating quality that I found distracting. It actually reminded me of the newer televisions that support higher refresh rates. It causes motion to look a bit unnatural and almost a swimming appearance. Aside from that there was plenty to like about this presentation. Depth and dimension are outstanding and the contrast levels in the Las Vegas scenery were superb. Every detail of the casino floors and Vegas clubs was there in spades and the style provides lots of eye candy.
Sony delivers another solid Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that had far more dynamic range than I was expecting for this type of film. The low end had a lot more presence than I would expect and my subs got a nice workout from time to time. The film’s soundtrack is a nice mix of modern rock and club sounds and the soundtrack does a great job of delivering a convincing atmosphere for the casinos and clubs. Dialogue sounds very natural in balance and timbre and the imaging was seamless throughout the soundstage.
Extras include interviews with the cast including tips on blackjack play as well as a behind the scenes look at the production of the film. A feature commentary and production design feature is also included. Another interesting feature is the inclusion of a blackjack game that can be played solo or online using the BD-Live profile. This game even has tips for the amateur on how to play their cards.
Sony has delivered a sensational A/V presentation on this one. While I didn’t think the film was near the caliber of card favorite Rounders, it was still an interesting story with nice style. Easily worth a rental.