Saturday, March 29, 2008

21: True Story!

Loosely based on true events, 21 is the Hollywood depiction of six MIT students who raked in the money counting cards at the blackjack tables in Las Vegas. This movie is based on the book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich. I haven't read the book fully, I actually read the juicy parts in a Wired Article: Hacking Las Vegas years ago.

Essentially, a group of really smart and clever MIT students gang up on casinos with an elaborate strategy of signals and teamwork to rake in the cash by playing the odds back against the house. Blackjack is one of the only games where it's actually possible to recognize when the odds are in your favor: card counting. Led by one of the professors, this gang repeatedly rakes in the cash during weekend trips from Boston to Las Vegas.

Lawrence Fishburne is a contractor working at various casinos trying to spot cheaters, and taking care of them old school style. He's a dying breed, now being ousted from the business by face recognition software. Sort of reminds me of the movie The Cooler. The Cooler was a great movie, but I digress.

So Lawrence Fishburne is a loss prevention agent who scouts the video feeds and watches for people who are a bit too successful in their gambling. That's how he spots the MIT gang initially. In reality it took the casinos two years to figure out the MIT game, but we only have two hours okay? So Lawrence Fishburne easily identifies the signal the MIT team uses to mark a table as 'ready' to rake. I spotted it too. But this is a movie, so we have to make it easy for the audience to recognize since they're not as smart as MIT students.

Anyway, I won't spoil the rest of the movie, but if you read the Wired article you've probably gotten your money's worth of 21. This movie is great if you have no clue about the true story. Some of the characters are funny. I was offended at the portrayal of the asian kleptomaniac.

I give this Hollywood Historical 50%, for the obvious historical horseshit, and for presenting the Monty Hall Problem. I wasn't offended. That's me being melodramatic.

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