Royal Casino – 21

I picked the title above because I am reminded so much of the last James Bond movie, ‘Casino Royale’. Being interested in how that movie was made, naturally I scoured the net for information. Imagine my surprise, then, when the director Martin Campbell noted that the most difficult scenes shot were the ones with Bond gambling his money. Being serious in maintaining their continuity, they had tried to make sure each shot of the chips, cards. I couldn’t quite believe, but having since attempted to maintain a bigger continuity in my own film, I came to realise exactly what he had meant.

I mention that because in this movie, there are plenty of cards, and there are plenty of chips. It shouldn’t be a surprise: the main premise is, after all, people gambling in casinos. I did think find myself thinking of ‘Casino Royale’ once again, even before the movie had started. The director, Robert Luketic (who had previously directed ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Monster-in-Law’), probably had a hard time on his hands for the scenes, then, which I suspect would be aplenty.

As the credits rolled up, it confirmed my suspicion as to that particular link. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that truly caught my attention.

He chips in with his jokes.

Of course, both are very different productions. In ’21’, Jim Sturgess (‘Across the Universe’) plays Ben Campbell, a bright young student who wanted to go to Harvard Medical School. Coming from a poor background, however, he’s pinning all of his hopes for such an education on receiving a scholarship. However, with his chances not looking, he continues to attend his classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). However, all is not lost. His teacher, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), spotted his obvious mathematical talent, and invited him to join a secret group: a group of card-counters all hand-picked by Rosa himself. Their mission: to go to Vegas, and make as much money as possible (which is probably the aim of everyone who goes there, mind).

But wait, what is card counting? Wikipedia referred to it as a strategy “used to determine when a player has a probability advantage.” In the film, it struck me as a more complex way of doing things. I thought that they might have made it simpler for the audience to follow, since I don’t actually know how to play blackjack. Perhaps I will make the time for another viewing of the scene, but as it stands…card counting. You count it right, and you win. It’s about as simple as I can make it here.

"Weren't you in 'K-Pax'?" "Shut up."

Of course, sooner or later, things fall apart. The team, which includes Kate Bosworth as Jill, starts to have their own little conflicts, and Ben’s friendship with his other friends also fall by the wayside. It doesn’t help that he has Morpheus himself tailing his every move. Cole Williams (Laurence Fishbourne) plays a very intimidating security officer, whose job it is to track down those who might be costing his casino money. People like Ben, Mickey and his friends.

The friends include two Asians, who’s casting seemed a bit stereotypical to me (I use the American term of Asian here, which refers to Chinese/Koreans/Japanese, rather than the British interpretation that thinks all Asians are from India/Bangladesh/Pakistan). Upon researching further, I discover that the film was based on a true story, and in fact most of the original ‘cast’ members were Asian. Evidently, the film tries to balance things up, which I can understand. Plus, it did offer us a chance to look at Kate Bosworth once again, who reminds us of how beautiful she can be when she’s not busy being Superman’s girlfriend.

Well, she reminded me at least. ๐Ÿ™‚

Proof that Jim Sturgess auditioned for James Bond.

I am also reminded of how ambitious Kevin Spacey is as a person. For him to have been involved in a project like this must have cost him a lot of time and effort. He’s actually involved in the running of a theatre in London, as well as acting and producing probably half the shows that they put on. At times, I wonder how he manages to find the time to fit in all that he does. Perhaps, like Herminone in ‘Harry Potter’, he manages to turn back clocks and go back in time. By the end of this year alone, he will have been involved in two feature films and one made-for-TV movie. Not that I am complaining: he remains a charismatic actor, and anytime I get to see him on-screen is a good time.

Similar things could be said for Jim Sturgess, though I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of his accents (the Scouse accent in ‘Across the Universe’ sounded weird, and his American one here isn’t really a winner, either). Though I like him in both films, I think a role closer to his roots would do him wonders.

"Weren't you in 'Edison'?" "Shut up."

I write a lot about the three main actors (Laurence Fishbourne didn’t really get much screen time, and he wasn’t really stretched) because they’re probably the best thing about film. The visuals also provided a fair amount of slick eye-candy to look at. Beyond that, however…beyond that, there are a couple of holes not so much in the plot, but in terms of logic. Had they been truly serious about not getting caught, I think hotel- and casino-hopping would have played to their advantage, and made things a little bit different and more interesting each time. Instead, the team plays only at one casino. Perhaps this was due to budgetary constraints (not enough money for other sets), but its incredulity does make me cringe at times.

It was the main thing that killed the movie, for me. It might have been fine, otherwise, and perhaps it is not really something that others wouldn’t really mind that. I did, however, and considering the interesting story (made even more intriguing by the real-life events it’s inspired from), and the good collection of cast members, it might have been a bigger winner (technically it is, since it made back its money).

You don’t have to be an Asian to figure that out.

After finishing secondary school, Fikri tried hard to avoid studying more numbers. Hence…Communication. ๐Ÿ™‚

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