Adam B. Vary
April 11, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Now this is how you beat the odds. Facing the debuts of big movies starring big names like George Clooney (Leatherheads) and Jodie Foster (Nim’s Island), the MIT-students-take-Vegas drama 21 topped the box office with $15 million in its second weekend, bringing its total gross to $47 million. That’s a double-down bet that even 21‘s own studio wasn’t willing to make. ”It was a very pleasant surprise,” chuckles Rory Bruer, president of distribution at Sony Pictures.

No kidding. With a cast not known of late for their box office muscle (Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth) and a leading man (Jim Sturgess) with just one prior major role on his résumé (Across the Universe), 21‘s success is most reminiscent of the sleeper hit Disturbia, which was released at almost the exact same time last year. That film arrived just as Shia LaBeouf was readying to play Indiana Jones’ new sidekick. Could a similar career slingshot be in the cards for Sturgess? Well, the Brit next plays a U.K. musician in August’s immigration drama Crossing Over, which costars, yep, Harrison Ford. Huh. Looks like the deck just might be stacked in Sturgess’ favor.

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