Movie ••• Picture •••½ Sound •••½ Extras •••½
It may seem far-fetched, but this movie is based on the real-life exploits of a group of MIT students who learned how to count cards and went on to conquer Las Vegas at the blackjack tables. And 21 certainly has things to recommend it: The film is well paced, boasts a fine cast, and is particularly skillful at capturing a nerd's notion of cool. But it also lifts one too many clichés directly out of the Hollywood playbook. Among others, you get the good kid who forsakes his friends and loses his soul in the fast lane before redeeming himself (Jim Sturgess), the brilliant hottie with an interesting backstory and a heart of gold (Kate Bosworth), and the morally challenged mentor who can't resist getting back in the game for one last score (Kevin Spacey, doing what he can with a one-dimensional role).

From a home theater perspective, this is a solid DVD. The muted tones of Massachusetts by day are juxtaposed nicely against the neon glitz of Vegas at night - all the better to illustrate the paradox of our heroes' worlds. The picture has above-average detail and plenty of oversaturated (but not distorted) colors on the casino floors and in the high-roller suites. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is very good, too, but not for the usual reasons. Although there are some decent surround-channel effects and an involving sense of space in the many gambling scenes, the real star of the show is the music. Tracks from Rihanna, the Aliens, Junkie XL, and many more serve up punctuating sonics with excellent presence and bass response.

The two-disc Deluxe Edition has a digital copy of the film, along with a commentary led by director Robert Luketic and a pair of typical making-of featurettes. But the most interesting extra is a ballsy little treatise on card counting, wherein cast members succinctly explain the ins and outs of legal cheating.