21 is a 2008 American heist drama film directed by Robert Luketic and starring Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Bosworth, Liza Lapira, Jacob Pitts, Aaron Yoo, and Kieu Chinh.
The film is inspired by the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team as told in Bringing Down the House, the best-selling book by Ben Mezrich.
Despite its largely mixed reviews and controversy over the film’s casting choices, 21 was a box office success, and was the number one film in the United States and Canada during its first and second weekends of release.
21 Film Cast
- Jim Sturgess as Ben Campbell.
- Kate Bosworth as Jill.
- Kevin Spacey as Micky Rosa.
- Aaron Yoo as Choi.
- Liza Lapira as Kianna.
- Jacob Pitts as Fisher.
- Laurence Fishburne as Cole Williams.
- Jack McGee as Terry.
- Josh Gad as Miles.
- Sam Golzari as Cam.
- Helen Carey as Ellen Campbell.
- Jack Gilpin as Bob Phillips.
21 Movie Plot
Ben, a mathematics major at MIT, is accepted into Harvard Medical School but cannot afford the $300,000 tuition. He applies for the prestigious Robinson Scholarship which would cover the entire cost.
However, despite having an MCAT score of 44 and high grades, he faces fierce competition, and is told by the director that the scholarship will only go to whichever student dazzles him.
Back at MIT, a professor, Micky Rosa challenges Ben with the Monty Hall Problem which he solves successfully. After looking at Ben’s 97% score on his latest non-linear equations test, Micky invites Ben to join his blackjack team, which consists of fellow students Choi, Fisher, Jill, and Kianna. Using card counting and covert signaling, they are able to increase their probability of winning while at casinos, leading them to earn substantial profits. Over many weekends, the team is flown to Las Vegas and Ben comes to enjoy his luxurious lifestyle as a so-called big player.
The team is impressed by Ben’s skill, but Fisher becomes jealous and fights him while drunk, leading Micky to expel him. Meanwhile, the head of security, Cole Williams, has been monitoring the team and begins to turn his attention to Ben.
21 Film Review
This film is very interesting even though the ending was predictable, it doesn’t exactly goes according to the actual real story but the film is loved by alot of people.
The plot is interesting, Micky, a math professor, recruits five brilliant students and uses their skills to win millions of dollars at blackjack in Las Vegas.
The filming of 21 began in March 2007. Principal filming of the Las Vegas scenes took place at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, the Red Rock Casino, and the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas.
Filming also took place at Harvard Medical School, Chinatown, in Cambridge, and the Christian Science Center in Boston, Massachusetts. As Massachusetts Institute of Technology did not allow filming on campus, the MIT school and dorm interiors, the gymnasium, and the alumni reception were all shot at Boston University.
21: Casinos In The Film
In pre-production, the producers and the book’s original writers predicted that the Vegas casinos would be unhelpful, as a film that told viewers the basics of card counting might hurt their bottom line.
A featurette included with the DVD completely and accurately describes the “Hi-Lo” system used by the MIT Blackjack Club and by Rosa’s team in the film.
In fact, the writers were surprised when told by the producers that MGM Studios would finance the film, though all “MGM” casinos (including one used by the real MIT Blackjack Team) are owned by MGM Resorts International and are no longer related to MGM Studios.
In reality, as another DVD featurette reveals, the casinos (including MGM Resorts) saw the film as an attention-getter; people who saw it would be encouraged to go to Vegas and play: some just for fun and some attempting to count cards but failing to learn or memorize the entire strategy or making too many mistakes. T
he film withheld critical strategy details (such as the conversion from the “running count” to a “true count”), and most beginning card counters underestimate the number and value of the mistakes they make.
21 Film Soundtrack Listing
The soundtrack was released at the same time as the film.
- 1. The Rolling Stones—“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (Remixed by Soulwax) (6:07).
2. MGMT—“Time to Pretend” (Super Clean Version) (4:20).
- 3.LCD Soundsystem—“Big Ideas” (5:41).
3. D. Sardy featuring Liela Moss—“Giant” (3:42).
4. Amon Tobin—“Always” (3:38).
- 5. Peter Bjorn and John—“Young Folks” (4:37).
6. Shook One —“Soul Position” (4:16).
- 7. Get Shakes—“Sister Self Doubt” (4:22).
8. The Aliens—“I Am The Unknown” (5:27).
- 9. Rihanna—“Shut Up and Drive” (3:34).
10. Knivez Out—“Alright” (3:31).
- 11. Domino—“Tropical Moonlight” (3:28).
12. Unkle—“Hold My Hand” (4:58).
- 13. Mark Ronson featuring Kasabian—“L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)” (3:32).
14. Broadcast—“Tender Buttons” (2:51).
Although it is not included in the soundtrack, Moby’s “Slippin’ Away” (Axwell Vocal Remix) plays in the scene when Ben is passing through airport security.
The song “Everybody Get Dangerous” by Weezer was also featured in the film, but not included on the soundtrack since it was not yet released. It would later be released on Weezer’s 2008 record, The Red Album. It is played on a distant radio when the team is in a poker club.
The song “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick and “Music is Happiness” by The Octopus Project were also featured in the film but not on the soundtrack album.
The song “Magnificent” by Estelle (feat. Kardinal Offishall) was also featured in the film but not on the soundtrack album. It’s played approximately 58 minutes in, after the Weezer song, in the scene where Ben buys Jill a beer. It’s subtle, and has a reggae beat.
In the promotional trailers, “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” by The Doors was used. During the restaurant scene where the team explains to Ben how they work, “Home” by Great Northern can be heard playing in the background.
The song “Again with the Subtitles” by Texas artist Yppah is another uncredited song in the film.
The track played as the team makes off at the end of the film is “Rito a Los Angeles” by Giuseppe De Luca, which features part of the main riff of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. This track is also used in Ocean’s Twelve, the first sequel to the caper film Ocean’s Eleven, about actually robbing casinos in Vegas.
My Mathematical Mind by Spoon was featured in the trailers.
21 Film Critical Reception
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 36% of 169 critics gave the film a positive review, for an average rating of 5.17/10. The site’s critical consensus reads: “21 could have been a fascinating study had it not supplanted the true story on which it is based with mundane melodrama.”
Metacritic gave the film an average score of 48 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”. Audiences polled by
CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B+” on an A+ to F scale.
The Movie Culture Synopsis
A race-based controversy arose over the decision to make the majority of the characters white Americans, even though the main players in the book Bringing Down the House, upon which the film 21 is based, were mainly Asian-Americans.
The lead role was given to London-born Jim Sturgess, who required a dialect coach to speak with an American accent.
Jeff Ma, who was the real-life inspiration for the character Ben Campbell and served as a consultant on the film, was attacked as being a “race traitor” on several blogs for not insisting that his character be Asian-American. In response, Ma said, “I’m not sure they understand how little control I had in the movie-making process; I didn’t get to cast it.”
Ma said that the controversy was “overblown” and that the important aspect is that a talented actor would portray him. Ma, who is Chinese American, told USA Today, “I would have been a lot more insulted if they had chosen someone who was Japanese or Korean, just to have an Asian playing me.”
Overall, it’s a great film and TMC would give it a solid 8/10. This film is available to watch on Netflix.