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21 (Single-Disc Edition)
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Product Description

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. Studio: Sony Pictures Home Ent Release Date: 12/23/2008 Starring: Jim Sturgess Laurence Fishburne Run time: 123 minutes Rating: Pg13 Director: Robert Luketic

An unconvincing 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. That studied ambivalence proves wearing after a while, making 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 in an otherwise superficial movie. --Tom Keogh

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Customer Reviews:

  • **1/2 = I found this movie to be a lot of fun.
    I have to say that Jim Sturgess is actually a very handsome guy. He was excellent in "Across the Universe," which made me think: would "21" be a good movie now that he's actually in it. But I would have to admit as well that anything with Kevin Spacey in it is worth seeing. And yes, Kate Bosworth is actually very hot.

    So I rent "21" hoping for some good things. The movie is as predictable as it can be but that's okay. It still is a fun movie.

    "21" is the story of Ben Campell (Sturgess) who is the smartest guy in MIT high school aka Straight A student. His math teacher Micky Rosa (Spacey) teaches him how to play Black Jack and gives him the rules about how to play Black Jack. Ben falls in love with a girl named Jill (Bosworth) and together on weekends, they go to Las Vegas.

    But the biggest criminal in Las Vegas is the idiotic Cole Williams (played by Laurence Fishburne). Cole Williams has the death fist and spies on people playing first come first served basis games of Black Jack. But that's the catch, Ben must try to get rid of Cole Williams ASAP.

    The movie is sure a lot of fun but there could be some rough spots you can add up to. First of all the ending is very predictable. We all knew that Ben was going to get the money to go off to college. So what else can you add up to?

    Laurence Fishburne was actually pretty good. He sure is the devil to beat but at least he's got the whole idea and concept of his character. I'm sure he knows that he follows up to his character more than Kevin Spacey, which Kevin Spacey is doing being rude and an evil menace to Kate Bosworth like he was in "Superman Returns" and that's the weirdest you can get from a sequel.

    I wouldn't say that "21" is a terrible movie, but it's one of those movies that you can venture of into Las Vegas. It's fun, but we've seen movies like that before. We've seen that type of stuff in the Oceans movies and "Casino Royale" only Jim Sturgess doesn't have Sean Connery or Daniel Craig James Bond style.

    Like a lot of films, there is something to catch. And the catch with "21" was that it was a great concept but weak on story and silly on characters....more info
  • Pure Hollywood and a lot of fun, but unrealistic, even though based on a true story
    Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a brilliant MIT student on his way to Harvard Medical School. He's already been accepted, but the money is an issue. Ben is up for a full scholarship, but so are 76 other people, and he has spent so much time studying, he's had little opportunity for the "life experience" the scholarship board seeks from that one "dazzling" candidate that deserves the $300,000 free ride.

    So, when his Nonlinear Equations professor, Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey), recruits him to his team of other brilliant students to count cards in Las Vegas casinos, he reluctantly accepts -- on the condition that once he's earned the three-hundred grand, he's out.

    Spacey is electric as Professor Rosa, but it's Sturgess's work as Ben Campbell that grounds this flight of fancy in reality. He is instantly likable, and his troubles are relatable, even though few people have actually experienced them. Laurence Fishburne also has a nice turn as ultra-intimidating security man Cole Williams, a man who does whatever it takes to keep his job in an increasingly computer-controlled arena.

    Though it's supposedly based on a true story, 21 is pure Hollywood all the way. From its underprivileged hero given the opportunity of a lifetime, to its instant inclusion of the hero's dream love interest (here Kate Bosworth), to how Ben drops his geek friends once he gets the chance to hang out with cooler people, to how the student surpasses the teacher.

    The first portion of the movie is so predictable, in fact -- and so spelled-out for the general audience -- that it's a struggle just to get through to the interesting portion: the actual Vegas scenes. As a whole, however, 21 is a lot of fun, and I was surprised at how much I thought about it after it was over, especially that insipid but catchy phrase, "Winner, winner, chicken dinner." ...more info
  • Utterly Contrived Nonsense
    Intelligent film viewers beware:

    Apparently, Ben Mezrich's fantastic, non-fictional account of beating the house -- for real -- in the mid-nineties was not good enough for the makers of this film.

    For some incomprehensible reason, they took a fascinating real-life story, glammed it up, time-shifted it to the present day, packed it full of tired cliches and overused plot devices, and baked up what we have here -- a totally unbelievable, totally silly exercise in film frustration.

    Even good actors cannot save a terrible script. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!? This could have been so smart, so good, just like the freaking book...

    And by the way, the classroom exercise early in the film about a gameshow host and opening the doors makes absolutely no sense to me or my wife. Knowing what's behind the third door does not help you decide which of the two remaining doors is preferred. After door three is opened, the original choice of door number one becomes no more or less likely to win than door number two.

    GET THE BOOK, it's great and might make you smarter. This movie will just make you dumber.
    ...more info
  • Good Will Hunting can be Jason Bourne...
    ... if MIT nerds can break the casino. The story is so fake. I grew up hanging out at MIT since high school. Went to the "other" school in Cambridge having realized the MIT experience was completely detached from the real world. I am familiar with some of the members of the card-counting team. They had a pack not to talk about their losses, for good reasons. The casinos found their income at the poker tables increased about 10 times, after the "rumor" was spread that MIT students won money from them. Of course, the casinos did not bother to refute their claims.

    What type of people run casinos? Certainly not stupid or charitable people. It is a complete fantasy to think some book-smart kids can take money from street-smart operators at their home court.

    Maybe Jason Bourne actually did graduate from MIT?...more info
  • Great Film
    And that's saying a lot, considering I don't watch much in the way of movies anymore. All about a professor and his group of students who go to Vegas to count cards... a way of beating the casino system and coming out ahead. So long as you don't get caught.

    The plot and pacing were good and the characters were both believable and interesting. I really enjoyed 21....more info
  • Not a Bad Movie at All!
    I thought this was a fun movie to watch. It was cool how they filmed at Planet Hollywood, Red Rock Resort and Hard Rock Casinos. Makes me want to go out to Vegas to try my luck!!!
    I have read the book Bringing Down the House and the movie doesn't follow the story exactly but what movie does? Just wondering why they didn't call the movie Bringing Down the House instead. This is a much better title than the bland 21.
    I agree with a previous poster that Kate Bosworth's hair was not very attractive in the film. I guess they are trying to say MIT girls aren't as pretty compared to schools like UCLA or Florida....more info
  • 21 - a fun Ride while it lasted
    Jim Sturgess plays Ben, a working-class science nerd . He needs to find tuition for Harvard. Along comes his favorite math professor, Kevin Spacey, with an offer of extra credit that pays off in hard cash. The clincher is an invitation from the campus golden girl,Kate Bosworth, to join the team.

    Ben ignores the obvious foreshadowing and joins Team Vegas, a gang of weekend card sharks with seductive double lives. At least until he loses his mentor's money and Spacey turns his charm into a threat.

    Without giving away too much, let me just say, if you enjoy the rush of the fast life, and you also enjoyed the book "Bringing Down the House", give this movie a go. ...more info
  • Damaged Item
    I received the DVD shortly after purchase, only to find out that the case was all broken up as the sender failed to package it correctly. I was disappointed to find this, as I didn't buy a "like new" DVD to receive a broken case in the mail. The sender also told me that he would refund my money which he did, and send me a new copy with a un-broken case. That has been over a month ago and I have not seen the new replacement DVD. The money was refunded, but in my opinion don't offer something to someone you aren't going to follow through on, such as replacing it with a new DVD like I was told!...more info
  • Forget the nay sayers
    To all the nay-sayers and negative reviewers:

    1. It's a movie.

    2. It's hollywood.

    3. Who cares if it's accurate to the "T" !?!?!?!!

    It's a movie... ! enjoy it. :) ...more info
  • Frankly, garbage
    This is NOT a movie of Bringing Down the House, which was a very good account of the experience of being part of a team of Black Jack shysters. The script writers clearly did not understand the type of card-counting being done in Bringing Down the House, which is probably why they created this bogus back-story about a brainiac college student (very unconvincingly acted by Jim Sturgess) that had nothing to do with this kind of card-counting, which is done by teams and does not require one to be a brainiac, just detail-oriented and observant, and able to follow directions. In addition, the first sample presented in the movie of his mathematical prowess was that he knew how to break 100% up into 3 parts...which made his professor take a second look at his paper...at MIT no less...which is even more unconvincing than the acting. Overall result? Embarrassing....more info
  • Great Vegas Movie!
    I just came back from visiting Las Vegas for the first time and that inspired me to rent this movie. I am very impressed with 21.

    The actors are great. Kevin Spacey is a great actor and he proves it again in this movie. The rest of the cast is great too.

    The Blu-Ray looks great on a 1080p HDTV. Perhaps I just had Vegas fever from just being there but the scenes of the Strip and of the hotels make me feel like i'm right back in Vegas.

    This is a great movie for a Blackjack fan, a Vegas fan, or just a fan of great movies. Highly recommended!...more info
  • Predictable and boring really
    This could have had so much more but poor boy wants to have enough money to go to medical school. Has an aptitude for counting cards. You can fill in the rest. Its predictable and not very exciting....more info
  • Better than I thought!
    After reading reviews of this movie I wasn't expecting much...but I have to say I was surprised to find it entertaining. The story is pretty simple and straightforward ( I won't repeat the whole plot) but it's EASY to follow which can be good sometimes. If you like a good movie with a twist at the end, this is a good one to watch. It's not Good Will Hunting by any means, but it's an good movie.

    Enjoy!...more info
  • Some loose ends and holes, but certainly worth viewing
    Okay, I have not read the book this was based on, so I don't know how accurate it is. Still, it is a compelling story of the attraction of a lot of money, an ambitious and needy student, a conniving professor, and what happens when you compromise on integrity in the quest to get rich fast.

    Kevin Spacey gives a fine performance as the professor in question, who sucks in a group of gifted students in his scheme to make gazillions of dollars in Vegas via card counting at 21. Jim Sturgess, the newest team member, turns out to be the smartest but also the most desperate, and it becomes clear that excitement, alcohol, and complacency can wear down even the most serious card-counters.

    I would have liked seeing some crawls at the end explaining what really happened to these students, their professor, and the casino "eyes" who kept an eye on the action and the perpetrators. Unfortunately, we are left to wonder about their true fate. Also, who the heck would hide huge stacks of money under a loose ceiling panel in a dorm room? Nobody--except one guy in this movie.
    ...more info
  • Insulting to the informed viewer
    From the outset of this farce it is clear that the creators of this film did not do their homework. Granted, as a private school alum with a math degree who has also spent many an hour playing blackjack and counting cards, who also has a passing knowledge of the russian language, I was in a unique position to either tear this film apart or thoroughly enjoy the rich nuances one would expect about a movie that appealed to me on so many levels. Massive run-on sentences aside, this movie fails on many levels. If you are hoping to find in this film Bringing Down the House brought to life, you will sadly have to wait 20 years for the inevitable remake. This movie is for laypeople who want to envision winning lots and lots of money and screwing the casinos. In the interest of retaining the few readers who have read this far, I will now list the many lapses:
    1. When the protagonist (PROT) is first introduced to the secret card counting society, watch the cards that Spacey deals. Keep your eye on them as the camera cuts back and forth to PROT. The number of and orientation of the cards is different each time we cut back to Spacey, though he is clearly just chatting the entire time and has not manipulated the deck at his side.
    2. PROT devises a new method for solving equations on the first homework assignment of an undergraduate math class? Sorry, that's absurd. Also absurd is that Spacey doesn't even call any attention to it until PROT has reasoned through the silly variable change problem. Further, the lecture material would seem more appropriate for a 100 or perhaps 200 level course and not MIT seniors.
    3. The name on the fake russian id is mispronounced. The pronunciation they use transposes the actual letters of the last name on the id. How convincing of a con can you be if you can't even pronounce your own name?
    4. The movie goes to elaborate lengths to demonstrate that PROT is an ungodly genius among men. Such intelligence is not necessary for card counting.
    5. Einstein reincarnate would not need signals from his cohorts after having sat at the table and played. The signals and code words inform him of the count at the time of his entry, whereupon he presumably would commence counting for himself.
    6. An MIT valedictorian of limited financial means who finds new solutions to age old problems, which have previously been slogged through by generations of students, professors, and scientists, would find himself with a generous scholarship to Harvard. If nothing else, it would be easy for him to borrow money. I'd speculate he's already had to borrow plenty to get through MIT, but the coffers do not tend to dry up for students of his ilk. He would have no problem getting the money he needs legitimately, even if he fails to win the prestigious full ride.
    7. Does the PROT intend to pay for Harvard Med in cash? Why else would he stash hundreds of thousands of dollars in the rafters of his dorm room? The money should have been deposited in interest bearing accounts and later claimed as gambling winnings.
    8. There's an "intense" scene early on where PROT is forced to fill his pants up with cash in the airport bathroom before he boards his first plane to Vegas. From Boston. No one cares if you are carrying large sums of money on a domestic flight. It would be more problematic to be found with money in your pants during a random security check or to appear as if you're smuggling a bomb under your sweatshirt. The scene seems to be an ignorant homage to the great movie I recommend in the next sentence.


    If you want to watch an awesome movie about true to life gambling, check out Owning Mahowny....more info
  • Young and reckless or is it young and responsible?
    Entertaining movie about a group of MIT students and their professor who plan to take down Las Vegas casinos by playing black jack and counting cards. This group of young people are all talented and smart and they all have big dreams. But they come from humble background and in the new world where schoilarships are limited and it takes more that 4.0 GPA and extracurricular activities to get them, the only thing left for them is to play cards for money in hopes they save enough for their medical schools board and tuition. I like the fact that film is not trying to preach what the high moral ground should be in those types of situations, but rather focuses on how certain types of success can change the nature of human beings, nature of friendship and the shift of power. Kevin Spacey is great in his role of the professor who scopes, trains and "invests" in his gambling student talent....more info
  • Dumbed down
    What happened with this movie is, they took a story that originated in the real world that was highly fascinating, and dumbed it down to a formulaic movie that is utterly predictable and just plain boring.

    If they had stuck with more genuine material, the story would be more interesting. The movie is a disservice to the players in the actual events....more info
  • cool movie
    the movie was great,, and its based on a true story,, so cool !! ...more info
  • 21 reasons TO SKIP THIS FILM !
    21. The soundtrack is a cacophony of bad music including rap, some folk and modern rock. Soundtrack diversity in film is great when it has some thought and flow is considered such as the album to Pulp Fiction or Smokin Aces, but this is more like a random pick of blare.
    20. Not enough Kevin Spacey, he's on the front of the poster and the DVD cover but he's hardly anywhere in the film, the few appearances he makes could've been shot in a single day.
    19. Laurence Fishburne is so chubby he's unrecognizable he could audition for Chef I don't know if he pounded up for this film but this isn't the Morpheus you're used to.
    18. Cute Kate Bosworth, but not enough of her and NO I DON'T MEAN NUDITY, I mean just not enough of her in the film.
    17. Skip the main character Ashton Kutcher look alike and just get the real Ashton instead, this guy tries too hard to be Ashton and the only thing more annoying than Ashton Kutcher is an actor imitating Ashton Kutcher !!!
    16. There isn't even a decent montage, "...we're gonna need a montage, even Rocky had a montage.." whelp, not this film.
    15. Not enough technical details for the audience nerds, no emphasis on the real technique of the card counting or the surveillance of the casinos.
    14. The characters have about as much depth as pee on a flat rock, there is more time spent developing the strippers than the main cast.
    13. Not enough emphasis on Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), we can tell he's a struggling businessman and expert at spotting cheats but the audience thirsts for more backstory -does he have a prison record, ex cop, who knows?
    12. The shots of Boston and Harvard are better than any of the panorama of Vegas, there was no effort to show anything about the luster of Las Vegas or even the airport.
    11. You gotta have night-vision goggles to watch this film, the whole thing is shot in strip bars, dark dorms and fading escalators.
    10. There isn't any moral lesson or struggle in this film despite the fact the movie poster lures the viewer into believing there is one.
    9. The rise and fall of the character is pitiful when you watch the devoted nerd main character dump his loyal friends for the new popular card counting kids then comes crawling back when he's dumped by them and their unwinding scheme.

    Reasons #8 - 1, If you still need a reason to skip this film then take a deck of cards with you whether it is in front of the DVD or DVR and play a card game with this junk film as background noise !
    ...more info
  • Awful
    Terribly disapointing movie. Kevin Spacey mails it in, playing the same likable villain he played in The Client, minus the southern accent. Choopy, uneven, inplausible script. No character development. Just a waste of time....more info
  • Haven't we bet on this script before? And Won?
    I can't think of the exact movie... but about 10 minutes in I thought I'd seen this all before. About an hour in I knew every part of the ending. It was an absolute cliche' from opening credits to ending credits. My god- it even had a VO Montage ending.

    If you're dying for a kids version of Ocean's Eleven- this is it. If you want 'the Goonies do Vegas'- this is it. If you want a good movie with a decent plot and a lot of believable characters who can act... this isn't it....more info
  • Glamorous does not equal better
    The story of how several MIT students were able to beat Vegas at their own game is compelling and entertaining. Unfortunately, it's told in a book titled Bringing Down the House not this movie. While based on the factual account of extremely bright card counters who devised a system capable of generating a very favorable win ratio in Black Jack, 21 delivers very little of that true story. Instead, it focuses on sensationalizing elements of the story and dramatically over simplifying others. It provides a glamorous but empty portrayal of characters who in real life were very interesting and intelligent.

    Card counting, as represented in this movie, hardly requires anything more than an average IQ and the ability to count quickly, not the gifted mind of a top MIT student. Frankly, this has been simplified so that the viewer is able to grasp the key concepts; not a bad idea in itself since not everyone is a gifted mathematician, but they've gone too far and left the viewer wondering what, if anything, makes the protagonist Ben Campbell or any of his cohorts special. As portrayed in 21, it seems that anyone could practice counting cards in their basements for several months and then go make unlimited amounts of money in Vegas. There are ways to make material accessible to the audience without over simplifying it to the level of silliness. The Paper Chase is a good example of how to do this tastefully.

    Over simplification is not the only issue in 21. Other elements have been made glamorous where unnecessary, sometimes with a level of implausibility that is laughable. The worst of these would require providing spoilers, but there are a few worth mentioning. First, these wildly intelligent card counters, led by a street-smart proffer played by a well cast Kevin Spacey, are always frequenting night clubs, sleeping in luxury casino penthouses, and in general drawing massive amounts of attention to themselves, all while purportedly trying to stay under the radar of the Casinos and their eye-in-the-sky security experts. This is ridiculous. Not even Lawrence Fishburn's entirely convincing and frightening portrayal of an old-school casino security chief can save this movie from dreary implausibility. Second, the interplay between the students are based on silly cliche. These same 'brilliant' students cannot seem to remember their own basic set of rules, or even follow basic Black Jack strategy when they are either fatigued, angry, etc... That is a blatant, undercutting reversal of what is supposed to make them who they are: an icy ability to calculate odds and stick to a system.

    Spacey and Fishburn make the movie less of an ordeal, but they're not enough to save this one from itself. Some of the dialogue is pretty interesting, especially the interplay between the protagonist Ben and his cut-throat professor. The psychological underpinnings of the relationships between Ben, the professor, and the former premier card counter whom Ben has supplanted could have been a dramatic gold mine, but these interactions are left on the sidelines in a movie more concerned about driving the plot forward than telling a great story.

    Overall, 21 is worth watching simply because its the next closest thing to the excellent book on which it is based. This is a rent not a buy. 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 because of Spacey and Fishburn. ...more info