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21 – David Sardy

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A volatile thriller about the surprisingly dangerous world of counting cards in Vegas, 21 is the latest film from director Robert Luketic. Based on a true story, the film stars Jim Sturgess as MIT math genius Ben Campbell, who is recruited into an elite team of card-counting blackjack players by his professor, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey). Ben, Micky and his team travel to Vegas each weekend and make thousands of dollars with consummate ease; however, despite having been seduced by his new decadent lifestyle, and despite his budding relationship with fellow card counter Jill (Kate Bosworth), Jim finds that the life of a Vegas card shark can be dangerous – especially when he crosses paths with ruthless casino ‘loss prevention’ officer Laurence Fishburne.

21 marked the film music debut of New York-based producer, singer, songwriter and guitarist David Sardy, who is most famous for his work with his group Barkmarket. As one might expect, Sardy’s score is modern and generally rock-based, and tends to add a touch of sexy sophistication to Ben’s secret life in Vegas; guitars, percussion and upbeat synths with aggressively snappy rhythms tend to dominate the proceedings.

Cues like “Dazzle Me”, “The Best Part of the Concert”, the dance-like “Loser” and and the conclusive “Got The Girl Not The Money” reek of contemporary Vegas cool, while other cues such as “Not Here for a Tie” and “Life Experience” infuse the score with a hint of jazz through the use of more traditional percussion, organs, and softer rhythms. Elsewhere, Sardy adopts a tougher, more abrasive edge in cues such as “The System Beats Back” and “Fight”, using a more harsh electronic sound to underscore the realities of Vegas’s less family-friendly underbelly, and which occasionally seem like throwbacks to the times when Faltermeyer, Moroder and Fiedel were at the top of their game.

The “Love Theme”, for the scene in which Ben and Jill, silhouetted by the lights of the Las Vegas Strip, have sex for the first time, is more conventionally orchestral, and stands out for its unexpected romantic beauty. Only one of Sardy’s pieces – “Giant” – appears on the popular hit soundtrack album, which is otherwise dominated by a vast array of rock, pop and electronica songs by the artists as diverse as The Rolling Stones, Amon Tobin, Junkie XL and Mark Ronson; the less widely-available score album features 27 score cues, amounting to just over 40 minutes of enjoyable 21st century rat pack grooves.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Opening Titles (2:16)
  • Dazzle Me (1:05)
  • Not Here For A Tie (2:10)
  • 21st Birthday (1:16)
  • Life Experience (1:06)
  • Honored Guest (1:27)
  • Very Safe (dialogue) (0:04)
  • The System Beats Back (0:53)
  • Test Run Alley (1:22)
  • First Table (0:54)
  • Burlap Mouth (0:13)
  • The Best Part of the Concert (4:37)
  • Cole (1:06)
  • No One To Tell (1:04)
  • Love Theme (1:13)
  • Cole Gets Face (1:44)
  • Fight (1:38)
  • Loser (3:23)
  • No Cash (1:24)
  • No Cash Reprise (1:26)
  • Queen of Diamonds (dialogue) (0:04)
  • Cole Gets Ben (3:22)
  • Lost Everything (dialogue) (0:05)
  • Jill (2:05)
  • Plot Reveal (1:07)
  • The Bag (2:16)
  • Got The Girl Not The Money (1:52)

Running Time: 41 minutes 12 seconds

Adrenaline Music ADRE101056 (2008)

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