Most people have no clue the move “21” is actually a fact based story about six MIT students who set up at the casinos in Las Vegas to cheat the system. The students are referred to as the “Black Jack Team” and use a Hi-Lo card counting system to make money. Card counting is illegal in Las Vegas and that is where the plot begins.
The team headed by a MIT professor attracts attention from the casino owner and tries to earn as much money as they can before getting caught. The professor and the casino owner have a past, and this plays into the professor creating a team to do his dirty work. With the ever revolving technology, viewers cannot help but question if this could be done better in an online casino.
What About the Team?
The real team consisted of mostly Asian American students. The main character was an Asian American but was played in the movie by Jim Sturgess, a Londoner. Much controversy came out of the minimal Asian casting.
The Asian community felt that the cast was heavy on whites and did not portray the actual race of the team accurately. This was just one of the many criticisms of the movie. There were other complaints from casinos and movie critics as well.
Were Their Concerns?
Writers worried the idea of the movie focusing on how easy it would be to use the card counting system to cheat the casino. Others explained that the movie did not include an important piece of information that explained how the card counting strategy actually worked. The movie also displayed the strategy as being a lot simpler than it really is.
There was also an additional feature on the DVD that explained the process of card counting. In a twist, the casinos actually approved of the movie and felt that it helped attract visitors. Casinos understood that the card counting strategy was not an easy way to bring in money and was not worried about people trying it. With the high level of security in most casinos, card counting issues were on the bottom of their list.
More on Jim Sturgess
The whole basis of the Jim Sturgess joining the team is that he could pay off the medical school fees. Getting caught up in the luxurious lifestyle of Vegas and the money causes him to forget about his priorities back at home.
He starts getting greedy and is forced to quit the whole team in the end. Not left with nothing, the team works behind the scenes to make some money in one night so every member can walk away with a portion of the profits. The professor is left dealing with his old enemy and receives nothing.
Jeff Ma, the real life Ben Campbell owns the company, Protrade. Although he thought about attending medical school, he decided Black Jack was a better moneymaker for him. The team was never led by a professor.
Instead it was led by three individual investors. They began working together in 1980 and started going to work in the casino card counting in the early 1990s. The entire interview process for the scholarship never happened and was only used to tell a story. Parts of the movie were made up to entice watchers, but much of the movie is based on factual events.