21: The Good and the Bad

21 is a movie about blackjack. It stars Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, and Laurence Fishburne. The plot revolves around a homage to the MIT card counting team of real life fame that were reputed to have gone to Las Vegas one weekend and won millions of dollars. They are well known as the biggest beaters of the system in the history of organized, offline gambling. Jeff Ma, the real life leader of the card counting team that Sturgess' character is based on, is a man that played for the thrill of victory. The movie attempts to capture that thrill through the various plotlines that arise and are dealt with during the course of the movie.

The Good

There are many good points to love about this movie, one of which is that it is fun to watch. A person can walk into this movie, sit down, watch the movie from start to finish and have a great time doing so. Even someone that really isn't that interested in blackjack will be able to enjoy this movie because of its recurring themes. These include the casino getting tough with someone and gamblers having a falling out with each other; all popular culture themes that most people can understand and appreciate. In addition to this, a large portion of the MIT card counting story remains intact, so some people that know the history of that particular team can actually view this as a legitimate dramatization of the story.

The Bad

The bad aspect of the movie is the fact that there are a number of glaring errors made throughout the course of the movie. For example, in the movie, a spotter is defined as someone that looks for card count totals that are beneficial and then indicates to the big player that the table is free for them. While this is certainly true, in the movie the spotter stays after the big player arrives at the table, whereas in real life the spotter would leave soon after because the more people at the table, the more diluted the favorable actions of the card count are to the player that intends to bet the big money.


If you are knowledgeable about the MIT card counting team, then 21 is perhaps not a movie you would enjoy that much because the errors might stick out at you. However, many people that know about the team have enjoyed the movie and most of the people that have no knowledge of the team enjoyed the movie as well. So all in all, it still seems like a worthwhile movie to watch.