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"Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!"

Very Loosely Based on a True Story, namely the book Bringing Down the House, this 2008 movie is about a bunch of MIT students (played by Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, and Jacob Pitts) who go to Las Vegas and make a lot of money via card counting.

Features supporting turns from Kevin Spacey as their math professor, whose approach to things is WRONG and Laurence Fishburne as a casino security officer.

Named after the casino Card Game blackjack. Not to be confused with Game Show 21, the album by Adele, or 21 Jump Street.

This movie contains examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Ben's friends from before the main story, who help win money counting cards at the end.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: After Ben tells Miles about his crazy experience, all Miles latches on to is that Ben had sex with Jill.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jill's dad taught her how to play cards since she was nine (although he wasn't as good at it as her) and they'd play for ice cream, with him buying her some regardless of who won.
  • Double Caper: The end game has multiple layers of card counting, unknown to Rosa.
  • Drink-Based Characterization: The team members are told by their coach to order tonic waters with lime, so that the security personnel watching the cameras won't notice that they aren't drinking any alcohol.
  • Exercise Excuse: Ben's friends see him standing on his bed: in fact, he has been hiding his huge Las Vegas winnings. Ben hastily explains he is just jumping up and down on the bed and asks if they never did the same when they were kids.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: With the casino chips in the climax.
  • Fixing the Game: Averted. This is a film entirely about counting cards, but counting cards is not cheating unless you have a partner helping you.
  • Good with Numbers: The entire team, obviously. Ben's Establishing Character Moment is tallying up a customer's (lengthy) order at a clothing store, including knocking off a percentage using his employee discount, and giving the final total, all without needing to use pen and paper or a calculator.
  • Improvised Weapon User: Cole's rings, which he keeps around only to use as an ad hoc set of brass knuckles.
  • In Medias Res: The film starts with the climactic last game, and then flashes back to tell the story.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Justified, considering that they were all members of the same university chosen by a professor at that university.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The entire final run on the casino is a distraction to get Cole chasing Ben and Professor Rosa so they wouldn't notice Ben's friends counting separately. This is fairly unusual for this trope because the "real" con netted substantial less than the fake one would have.
  • Karma Houdini: Cole Williams, the casino security chief. He harasses the team, is shown beating people he has caught, and at the end steals millions from the protagonist and completely gets away with it. For the record Ben is a remarkably good sport about it, even hinting that Williams deserves to retire comfortably (something he would never be able to do working for the casino).
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Choi is a loyal enough friend and portrayed sympathetically but he has Sticky Fingers, stealing hotel accessories despite the thousands they are making at the tables.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Professor Rosa, who has stolen money from Cole Williams from card-counting that he got thrown out, as well as pulling the strings on his blackjack team and even keeping Ben from graduating. Rosa has karma finally catch up to him when it turns out he never paid taxes on his winnings, and he is about to get pummeled by the security chief he affected the most.
  • The Last DJ: Cole Williams is a variation. Not so much for the typical interpersonal reasons, but because new computer technology is on the verge of making him obsolete. Various small touches indicate that he is considered behind the times, like his forgetting that he isn't allowed to smoke indoors.
  • Lecture as Exposition: Kevin Spacey is playing an MIT professor after all.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: The one time Ben ignores the rules and keeps playing at a low count, he loses everything on the next hand. In reality, counting correctly doesn't guarantee a win, it only ensures you'll win more than you lose on average.
  • Monty Hall Problem: Which the movie gets completely wrong. A student says that it doesn't matter if Monty only offers the switch when you pick the correct door, and the teacher says that's the right answer. In fact, if Monty only offers the switch when you pick the correct door, switching gives you a 100% chance of picking a goat.
  • Number Two: Terry, Cole's dutiful and only slightly less competent assistant at his security job.
  • Product Placement: Bud Light and a couple of other Anheuser-Busch products got some pretty blatant plugs, complete with conveniently-faced bottle labels.
  • Race Lift: In both Real Life and the book, most of the team was Asian, but all but two are white in the movie. Never mind the black guy who was there in real life.
  • Scary Black Man: Laurence Fishburne as the casino's chief of security. He keeps bag full of rings just for punching people in the face!
  • Secret Test: Ben's first time using the system in a live setting is simply a test to make sure he can correctly keep count even under extreme duress.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Rosa, when he is about to face a brutal beating by Williams. Not like he didn't have it coming though.
  • True Companions: Ultimately Ben, Jill, Kianna and Choi.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The film catches back up to the prologue, and this time it is shown mostly without the flashy closeups.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Not only the movie, but the book it was based on as well.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: In the book and real life they move around a lot, going to every place they can to avoid getting caught.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The movie screws up the Monty Hall Problem.