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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.

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Cast

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

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

Taglines:

Inspired by the true story of five students who changed the game forever. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

28 March 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

21 - The Movie  »

Box Office

Budget:

$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$24,105,943 (USA) (28 March 2008)

Gross:

$81,159,365 (USA) (16 May 2008)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Kevin Spacey, as part of their research for the film, they took some of the real players who was on the original team to Vegas. Although they weren't allowed to play, every time they wanted Spacey to up his bet, they would push up against his chair. He said, "I would win every time!" See more »

Goofs

In the montage scene showing the "extravagant" lifestyle of the group, the film cuts to scenes at the blackjack table, inside of clubs, etc. It's supposed to happen in or around the Planet Hollywood Casino/Hotel, but many of the locations shown are from Red Rock Casino game room and the club "Cherry". Red Rock is about 12.5 miles northwest of the Strip, surrounded by houses and deserts. See more »

Quotes

[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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Connections

Referenced in Love Cures Cancer: Take a Chance on Love II (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
"Winner Winner Chicken Dinner"
28 March 2008 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Slick camera work and some good performances rev up the technical quality of this fact-based story about a 21 year old MIT student named Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) who, along with his brainy Ivy League chums, travels to Vegas to win tons of money at the blackjack tables. Their sleazy math professor, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), leads the group. Rosa has devised an elaborate and conspiratorial card counting scheme that consists of code words and hand gestures. With all that preparation, the group's scheme does work ... for a while. And in the process, the shy, cautious Ben, who only wants the money for tuition costs, morphs into his alter ego, a person quite unlike his original self.

The film's pace starts off leisurely, then alternates between fast-paced Vegas casino action and periods of downtime wherein Ben and his girlfriend, fellow conspirator Jill (Kate Bosworth), talk shop and take in the high life. The story does have a villain, but it may not be who you think it is.

The script's dialogue is snappy and hip, and contains minimal tech jargon. "Variable change" is one such math term, and it has thematic implications toward the end, as the story twists and turns in ways that may surprise you. And "winner winner, chicken dinner" is the group's lingo for gambling success.

Production design is realistic and lavish; this is a big budget film. Color cinematography, by DP Russell Carpenter, is polished and slick. There are lots of elaborate camera dissolves and close-ups. The best parts of the film are the close-ups of the characters at the blackjack tables. Film editing coincides with plot pacing, and ranges from slow to super fast. Acting is all-around good. Kevin Spacey gives his usual topnotch acting job; Sturgess and Bosworth also give fine performances.

It's not a perfect film. Background music was noisy and rather nondescript for my taste. And I could have wished for more card playing, and less time spent on Ben's college buddies in the first Act; the result is that the film gets off to a slow start. Still, the script is credible, and stays close to its book source "Bringing Down The House" by Ben Mezrich.

Thematically relevant in today's world of greed and materialism, "21" is a terrific film, one that has greater import than other films, because the events in "21" really happened. And the fine performances and polished visuals enhance the overall look and feel, to create a film that is both engaging and entertaining.


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