Production year: 2008

Drama PG-13   Running time: 2:03 

IMDB rating:   6.7     Aspect: Wide;  Languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai;  Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese-Simplified, Chinese-Traditional, Korean, Thai, Indonesian;  Audio: DD 5.1

An exercise in moral complexity, 21 is based on Ben Mezrich's book Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions. Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe) plays brilliant, blue-collar scholar Ben Campbell, whose doubts that he'll win a scholarship to Harvard Medical School compel him to join a secret, M.I.T. gang of math whiz kids. Under the silky but chilling command of a math professor (Kevin Spacey), Jim and the others master card counting, i.e., the statistical analysis of cards dealt in blackjack games. The team lives a humdrum existence during the week, but on weekends in Sin City, the students are rolling in cash, going to exclusive clubs, and feeling on top of the world. (Ben even gets the girl: a comely, fellow counter played by Kate Bosworth.) Despite all that success, Ben feels ethically compromised, and indeed director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde), in the old tradition of American movies, plays it both ways where fun vices are concerned. On the one hand, it feels so good; on the other, ahem, we know it's wrong. The most interesting character in the film a casino watchdog played by Laurence Fishburne. A master at reading the emotions of gamblers beating the house with a scam, he's admirable for being good at his job, but repellent for wrecking the faces of counters in casino dungeons. He's all about moral complexity in the tradition of anti-heroes, and a truly provocative element.



Audio commentary

Special features

21: The Advantage Player (The cast explains the game of blackjack and card counting)
Basic Strategy: A Complete Film Journal (Making-of featurette)
Money Plays: A Tour of the Good Life (Featurette that explores the clothes, luxuries and locations shown in the film)
Filmmaker Commentary