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21 | A Hollywood Heist Film | Views And Reviews

It has been a while since we have talked about movies. Actually, we had seen a plenty of them and wanted to share our genuine and unbiased views and reviews for all them. So, you can expect them coming in near future.

Today let me talk aobut a movie named 21.

Movie :
Producers : Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Dana Brunetti, Michael DeLuca
Director :
Robert Luketic
Writers : ,
Based On : Bringing Down the House by
Cinematography : Russell Carpenter
Music : David Sardy
Editor : Elliot Graham
Production Companies : Relativity Media, Trigger Street Productions, Michael DeLuca Productions
Distributed by : Columbia Pictures
Released On :
Starring : Jim Sturgess (Ben Campbell), Kevin Spacey (Professor Micky Rosa), Kate Bosworth (Jill Taylor), Laurence Fishburne (Cole Williams), Aaron Yoo (Choi), Liza Lapira (Kianna), Jacob Pitts (Fisher), Jack McGee (Terry), Josh Gad (Miles Connoly), Sam Golzari (Cam Azazi), Helen Carey (Ellen Campbell), Jack Gilpin (Bob Phillips), Spencer Garrett (Stemple), Jeff Ma (as Jeffrey Ma – Planet Hollywood Dealer Jeff (the person upon whom the story was based), Kris Williams (Jill’s Friend), Kieu Chinh (Poker player), and others…
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Let me start with something interesting, a question…

Is being intelligent a strength or a burden?

The wise Indian ancients have given us lots of proverbs depicting the pitfalls of a lamp that burns too bright and when not shielded, can burn the house down, that the light and fire of intelligence needs the moral understanding and restraint to channel it towards the good of society and not towards destruction.

Humans have mastered and ruled planet earth for centuries because of their superior intelligence over all other species, but have also caused devastation beyond anyone’s wildest dreams including eradication of flora and fauna created by millennia of the evolution process. The only saving grace is that most of the time we are a social animal and the good old education focused enough on the moral education as well as worldly wisdom. Children are taught about black and white, right and wrong and most importantly the difference between a mistake and a crime.

What is a crime after all?

Is it only when it brings punishment and unforeseen consequences to the wrongdoer? If nobody saw you steal, did you commit theft? If there was a loophole in the law, and you took advantage of it, were you smarter than everyone else or were you a fraudster? These are some of the questions that spring to mind when we recently revisited the 2008 film ‘21’, that tells the story of these highly intelligent, well-educated young men and women who use their smartness to ‘not exactly but kind of’ cheat at the game of Blackjack.

As cliché as it sounds, real life is stranger than fiction and this film also has its roots in a true story. Published by Bostonian Ben Mezrich as ‘Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions’, the book earned him his first commercial success in the publishing world. Even though classified as non-fiction, there have been multiple accusations by the people involved in the events that Ben has changed the characters and circumstances to make the story more appealing. The controversy regarding the plot exaggerations was so widespread that the book eventually has been published with disclaimers.

In a nutshell, this is the story of Kevin Lewis (real name Jeff ma), an MIT graduate who joined the MIT Blackjack team headed by Jason Fisher and Andre Martinez in 1993. The background orchestrator for this team was called Micky Rosa. The team used the technique of “card counting” to make big money at a blackjack table in casinos.

How can we explain what is card counting?

For a layman like us, in the stack of 52 cards, each card has value and in the game of Blackjack, the dealer and the player all draw the cards, and their winning or losing the game depends on the value of the card they draw. But every card is drawn only once, so if you could remember each card that was not in the game anymore, you can pretty much predict the odds of the next hand.

Sounds complicated, isn’t it? Well, that is why it is attempted by people who are really good at mathematics J, and to learn more about it, we would recommend you watch the film.

In spite of the hullabaloo regarding authenticity of Bringing Down the House, this book set the niche for Ben Mezrich and he followed with Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions in 2004, Busting Vegas: The MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to Their Knees (A kind of sequel to Bringing Down the House) in 2005, and The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding Of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal in 2009, which was turned into movie The Social network. Such is modern life – you need only that first hit to get you on the map.

So back to MIT whiz kids and Vegas story, the 2008 film adaptation 21 is worth watching for many reasons, including the excellent cast of Kevin Spacey and Jim Sturgess in the authentic academic world of Boston.

Book Plot:

We meet Ben Campbell of MIT at difficult crossroads of his academic avenue. The ambition of his life is to get into Harvard Medical School. He is brilliant enough and has worked hard enough to gather the academic credentials required for this super prestigious institution. But, like most heroes, he is poor. He doesn’t have the 300,000$ it will take to study at Harvard Medical School. His only option is a scholarship which is so highly competitive that he is practically told that there is a very slim chance of him getting it.

Cut to his current classes at MIT where professor Micky Rosa is always on the hunt for math geniuses. Ben being one, Rosa invites him to join his little blackjack club – current student members being Choi, Fisher, Jill and Kianna. After initial wavering, Ben agrees and undergoes the training to learn the patterns and codes of how this little group works. It also helps that he has forever had a crush on Jill and this might be his only chance to cultivate her friendship.

Like every gambler does at the start, Ben goes in with a target to make 300,000$ for the medical school and then get out. However, the life he sees in Vegas is so beyond his imagination that soon he is hooked in. The money, the power, the freedom to be anyone he wants to be, the thrill, the secrecy and the Jill – it proves be too potent a mixture.

But if there is a thrill of stealing, there is also always a danger of being caught. And when Ben makes his first mistake, the consequences are very real – from physical assault to mental anguish. Once professor Rosa is displeased with him, Ben’s life falls apart around him. He suddenly doesn’t have enough credit to graduate, his secret saved stash for medical school fees is stolen and his friends have given up on him, leaving him even behind than ‘back to square one’.

But, can this school smart kid prove to be street smart as well? Will he ever crawl back out of this pit? Does he have a final ace up his sleeve to get him where he wants to be?


The film had a lot of mixed reviews and was specifically criticised for whitewashing the star cast, i.e., the Asian-American characters from the book Bringing Down the House were turned into Caucasian Americans. It still made decent money at the box office and was considered a hit. And in our opinion, is still entertaining enough to watch on a rainy afternoon, if for nothing else, then as a reminder that the line between being smart and being stupid is not always so distinct in the real world.


  • Critics have different opinions for this film, it worked pretty well on the box office though.
  • The makers also couldn’t believe when they got confirmation that MGM studio is ready to finance this film! Actually, they have a casino wing too and makers thought that if the logic is explored behind the machine, the casino may start making huge loses. The producer however thought otherwise! They thought that the movie will raise interest among people and they will start coming to casinos to try the logic and their luck. Of course, it is not easy to follow all the steps perfectly and most of such customers are actually seen losing their money due to various factors; Resulting in profit for the casinos…:)
  • This film seems to have highly inspired Amitabh Bachchan and Ben Kingsley’s Teen Patti – a Hindi film.

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Over to you:

Did you watch this movie? Or Are you planning to watch it? Which part of the movie you like the best? What is the most effective scene of the movie according to you? Is there anything you want to share about this movie or this article? Are you going to purchase it when available on DVD? Do not hesitate, go ahead and leave your comments below. And yes, do not forget to share this article with your friends over various social networks via Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and others. And yes, you may like to subscribe to our RSS feeds and follow us on various Social networks to get latest updates for the site to land right in your mail box.

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