"Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!" was a phrase that blackjack dealers supposedly used to say anytime a player was dealt a 21. Although you’re not being dealt a perfect 21 with 21, you definitely have a winning hand.
21 is loosely based on the true story of several MIT students trained and funded by a professor to effectively count cards in Vegas without being caught.
The movie is seen through the eyes of Ben (played by Jim Sturgess, Jude in Across the Universe), a genius MIT senior trying to earn $300,000 to pay for tuition at Harvard Medical School. After showing off his extreme intelligence in class, Ben is recruited by his professor (Kevin Spacey) to join a very small secret team of card counters.
The majority of the movie follows a fairly predictable path: Ben’s greed and pride begins to take over, he falls for his gorgeous fellow teammate (Kate Bosworth), his academic life gets rocky, a Vegas security guard stumbles onto their trick, and, in the end, you know he’s got no choice but to finagle his way out of this one.
The most fun comes from Ben’s training previous to actually playing in Vegas. 21 doesn’t hold anything back. It completely shows you how to effectively count cards on your own. And the first time Ben plays a table, you keep track of the cards along with Ben’s inner monologue.
If you enjoy movies like The Skulls — movies that seem simple and lightweight, but later take on a darker tone than you originally expected, and that don’t work on many levels, but work well on the levels they do work on — then you’ll be glad you put your money on 21.