The 2008 movie 21, was inspired by the real life story of the MIT Blackjack Team, as detailed in the Ben Mezrich bestselling book “Bringing Down the House“.
The movie received mixed reviews by most critics, the reviews ranged from okay and fun to mediocre or dull with some critics. However though it was not a box office smash, it was definitely not a flop, being the number one film for the first and second weekends of its opening in USA and Canada.
A financially struggling math major, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is accepted to Harvard Medical School but is a bit short on the $300,000 needed tuition fees.
Unable to get a scholarship, Ben comes to the attention of Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) at a class in MIT. Impressing the professor, he then invites Ben invite to join the professors blackjack team which is made up of fellow MIT pupils. Ben then meets the rest of the blackjack team and is reluctantly convinced by Professor Rosa and fellow blackjack team member Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth) to join them in their endeavour.
And so begins Ben’s immersion into the luxurious lifestyle the big gamers enjoy in Las Vegas when they play real money blackjack, but along with this comes a change in his personality. The Blackjack team employs card counting to win, split into two teams. The one team bets low and tracks the cards; they then signal the big betting player’s when to place large bets on favourable hands.
The action continues with big bets, backstabbing and the slightly insane Security Chief Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) tracking them and their wins.
We then see Bens slow decent into Vegas and losing himself to the game of Blackjack, loosing big, fighting back against Rosa and Williams. Eventually Ben comes to understand the impact he is having on his friends and studies and redeems himself.
The movie was criticised for its casting choices with the majority of the cast being white, despite the main players in the book being Asian American. The movie was also criticised for encouraging card counting, but that was superficial as the majority of the public would not be able to memorize the cards sufficiently to win.
Even box office winners Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne were not enough to win the major critics favour. According to critics the movie was a thin glossed over mundane story and the actual tale could have been much deeper and more detailed.
But the general public actually disagreed, enjoying the light hearted movie and ensuring it was the number one movie its opening weekend. According to rotten Tomatoes, the public voted and gave the movie a 66% average rating, but the critics gave it 33% overall rating. Well critics will criticise, but the public will enjoy whatever they damn well want.
The movie cost an estimated $35 million to make and grossed about $81 million in the United States and $157 million worldwide. And though it did not win any Oscars, this easy watch movie with a hint of redemption is a fun simple watch (and guide on what not to do in Vegas).