March 28th, 2008

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Still of Kate Bosworth in 21Still of Kate Bosworth, Liza Lapira and Jim Sturgess in 21Catalina Sandino Moreno at event of 21Still of Laurence Fishburne, Spencer Garrett and Jack McGee in 21Still of Kevin Spacey in 21Still of Jacob Pitts, Jim Sturgess and Aaron Yoo in 21

"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.

Release Year: 2008

Rating: 6.7/10 (91,049 voted)

Critic's Score: 48/100

Director: Robert Luketic

Stars: Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey

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...

Writers: Peter Steinfeld, Allan Loeb

Jim Sturgess - Ben
Kevin Spacey - Micky Rosa
Kate Bosworth - Jill
Aaron Yoo - Choi
Liza Lapira - Kianna
Jacob Pitts - Fisher
Laurence Fishburne - Cole Williams
Jack McGee - Terry
Josh Gad - Miles
Sam Golzari - Cam
Helen Carey - Ellen Campbell
Jack Gilpin - Bob Phillips
Donna Lows - Planet Hollywood Dealer
Butch Williams - Planet Hollywood Dealer
Ben Campbell - Planet Hollywood Dealer Jeff (as Jeffrey Ma)

Taglines: Inspired by the true story of five students who changed the game forever.


Official Website: Sony Pictures [France] | Sony Pictures [United States] |

Release Date: 28 March 2008

Filming Locations: Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $24,105,943 (USA) (30 March 2008) (2648 Screens)

Gross: $81,159,365 (USA) (18 May 2008)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The printed source code for the robot is from NOAA's National Geodetic Survey GPS Toolbox.

Crew or equipment visible: When Ben leaves the Hard Rock Hotel after their first night in Vegas, the shadow of the Cameraman and Camera on the dolly are visible on the hotel front and security guards in the background.

Micky Rosa: Choi, you made five grand last night. So would you stop stealing 9 cent pens and everything you can get your hands on from the maid's cart. It's embarrassing!

User Review

"Winner Winner Chicken Dinner"

Rating: 8/10

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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