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21 (2008)

PG-13 | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 28 March 2008 (USA)
2:33 | Trailer

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"21" is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2,218 ( 1)
1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ellen Campbell
Jack Gilpin ...
Donna Lows ...
Planet Hollywood Dealer
Butch Williams ...
Planet Hollywood Dealer
Ben Campbell ...
Planet Hollywood Dealer Jeff (as Jeffrey Ma)


Ben Campbell is a young, highly intelligent, student at M.I.T. in Boston who strives to succeed. Wanting a scholarship to transfer to Harvard School of Medicine with the desire to become a doctor, Ben learns that he cannot afford the $300,000 for the four to five years of schooling as he comes from a poor, working-class background. But one evening, Ben is introduced by his unorthodox math professor Micky Rosa into a small but secretive club of five. Students Jill, Choi, Kianna, and Fisher, who are being trained by Professor Rosa of the skill of card counting at blackjack. Intrigued by the desire to make money, Ben joins his new friends on secret weekend trips to Las Vegas where, using their skills of code talk and hand signals, they have Ben make hundreds of thousands of dollars in winning blackjack at casino after casino. Ben only wants to make enough money for the tuition to Harvard and then back out. But as fellow card counter, Jill Taylor, predicts, Ben becomes corrupted by greed ... Written by matt-282

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Inspired by the true story of five students who risked it all. See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some violence, and sexual content including partial nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

28 March 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

21 - The Movie  »


Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$24,105,943, 30 March 2008, Wide Release

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The main characters upon which the film 21 is based were Asian. Controversially, mostly Caucasian actors were cast. Jim Sturgess required a dialect coach to speak with an American accent. See more »


There are multiple errors in Vegas hotel locations - seeming to be in one hotel when the shot from the window makes it clear they are elsewhere, particularly when visiting a suite said to be at the Hard Rock but clearly the view is from a tall Strip hotel. The Hard Rock Hotel is neither. See more »


[first lines]
Ben Campbell: [narrating] 'Winner, winner, chicken dinner.' Those words had been dancing around my head all night. I mean, it's Vegas lore, that phrase. Just ask any of the old-time pit bosses, they'll know. It was a Chinese dealer at Binion's who was first credited with the line. He would shout it every time he dealt blackjack. That was over 40 years ago, and the words still catch. 'Winner, winner, chicken dinner.' Yeah, try it. I had heard it at least 14 times that night. I couldn't lose. First...
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References Taxi Driver (1976) See more »


Tender Buttons
Written by Patricia Keenand and James Cargill
Performed by Broadcast
Courtesy of Warp Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

one tired old cliché after another in a movie that had me looking at my watch every ten minutes for the entirety of the second and third acts
18 December 2009 | by See all my reviews

"21" is one of those movies where if you are only looking for an investment where all the dollar value was put into the visual presentation and not a dime was spent on the story, it's right up your alley. If you like movies that are eye-rolling in their idiocy but make up for it with oh-so-popular clichés, it will suit you, as it did the majority of my generation. But if you are like me, where you realize that the story and the integrity of a picture is most important, then "21" is nothing but sheer boredom. Just as a measure of my ennui, I didn't have high expectations, but I looked at my watch for the first time at the forty-five minute mark. And my eyes shot back there every ten minutes for the remaining one-point-two-five remaining hours of the film before the credits finally rolled and I unleashed a big sigh of relief. The torture was over.

"21" is also one of those movies that assumes that just because it's based on a true story that it's automatically going to be gripping. Well, documentaries are the same and I've seen some documentaries that were flat-out boring as well. It all depends on the quality. And in terms of its visual presentation, "21" works. But where it really counts, in the story, in the characters, in the timing, it falls before it even takes off. It's about a Harvard professor (Kevin Spacey) who enlists the top students in his classes to travel to Vegas for the weekends to "count cards" at the casinos and make millions. The latest recruit is a stereotypical dweeb well-played by Jim Sturgess who needs money to pay for tuition. And what follows is just one tired old cliché after another.

There was hardly a moment in "21" that I could not predict. It's just the standard rise and fall story with the same old morals about pride and greed. Once again, we have the dweeb with talent but no money. Things go well at first, then he goes over his head, things go bad, his hot girlfriend gets ticked off at him, so on and so forth. I knew right off the bat the sort of mentor-student relationship that Spacey and Sturgess would have. I knew that Sturgess would have a pretty girl (Kate Bosworth) smiling at him from the corner of the screen. I knew there would be a moment where somebody just blows it and…well, you get my point.

Most premises, even clichéd premises, can work out if they are done right. But "21" is not done right. The look of the picture is good, the directing is acceptable, the acting is quite good, but the story, the characters, the energy of the picture, the believability, it all just goes out the window, or should I say, into the card dealer's pocket. And it's our money they're snatching unfairly away from us. It's got the look of a professional picture, but is just as fun as watching a gambler's home videos. "21" is not a worthy investment.

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