Netflix has never shied away from streaming films that are drowned in controversy. From raunchy sex films to ones that abound in blood, gore, and rampant madness, controversial and banned films always catch viewers’ attention. One such heist film has had a breezy resuscitation on Netflix quite recently.
Robert Luketic’s 2008 heist drama, titled 21, starred Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Kieu Chinh, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, Jacob Pitts, Kate Bosworth etc.
The film is based on the real-life story of the MIT Blackjack Team, where a group of present and ex-students of MIT and other leading colleges used various techniques and wit to beat multiple casinos worldwide at blackjack. The film, too, is based on the same and adapted from the 2003 bestseller by Ben Mezrich.
While the film dominated Netflix charts for quite some time previously, it had garnered controversy. You would be surprised to know that it was not Hollywood exile and sexual assaulter Spacey who led to the same but the casting controversy regarding Sturgess.
The controversy regarding the film was based on the lack of diversity, alleged whitewashing and misrepresentation of Asian-Americans. While the book had a majority of Asian-Americans, the film decided to cast a majority of white Americans in the lead.
Sturgess starred as the main character, Ben Campbell, who Jeff Ma inspired. Ma served as a consultant on the film and was attacked for being a “race traitor” who enabled the misrepresentation of his character.
Ma later defended himself by talking about how it was “overblown”, and he had “little control” in the casting decision.
He added, “I would have been a lot more insulted if they had chosen someone Japanese or Korean, just to have an Asian playing me.”
The film was based on Ma’s character, known as Ben Campbell, an absolute genius in the movie. He teams up with fellow peers to gather money to pay their hefty tuition fees by using their penchant for solving problems under the maverick guidance of Spacey.
While the film received a lukewarm reception from critics, it smashed the box office.
Watch 21 on Netflix now.