On the film "21"

Friday, March 14, 2008

I've read some good posts and discussions on the movie 21 already - based on the book by Ben Mezrich about the MIT card counters - both on the film itself as well as on the choice of casting, and as it gets nearer to the release date (March 28th) thought I'd post some quick thoughts on the movie.

In a lot of ways I have to admit that I'm kind of hyped about the film for a few reasons:

  • I like movies like Rounders, Pool Hall Junkies, and The Hustler - and 21 seems like it's going to fit nicely into that same category.

  • It's got Laurence Fishburne.

  • The movie has two Asian Americans as part of the MIT card counting group - Filipino American Liza Lapira who's also going to be in the upcoming films See You in September and Repossession Mambo, and also Korean American actor Aaron Yoo (Disturbia, Cinema AZN).

  • It's got Kevin Spacey.

  • The movie and actors Lapira and Yoo have already won an award for the film from the ShoWest convention.
Because of those reasons I can't help but actually want to see the movie, because if I just look at the film, it looks pretty righteous - but like everything else, it doesn't live inside a vacuum - it's not an ivory tower standing alone.

The original team was mostly Asian American, the main lead in the book and the movie in real life was Asian American - it begs the question that if the movie was based on the book and inspired by the true story, how come they didn't feel it necessary to have an Asian American male in the lead?

Is this just another case of Hollywood thinking that an Asian American male wouldn't have the same appeal as a white actor?

Alvin Lin, an MIT alum who co-founded the MIT Asian American Association, as well as runs the Facebook group "Asians Not Brainwashed by Media" (and also does some blogging over at Hyphen and Imprinttalk) sent over some links and quotes my way which some other bloggers have mentioned as well in their discussion of the movie - one of which included the following:

Mezrich mentioned the stereotypical Hollywood casting process — though most of the actual blackjack team was composed of Asian males, a studio executive involved in the casting process said that most of the film's actors would be White, with perhaps an Asian female. Even as Asian actors are entering more mainstream films, such as "BetterLuck Tomorrow" and the upcoming "Memoirs of a Geisha," these stereotypes still exist, Mezrich said." - http://www-tech.mit.edu/V125/N43/43vegas.html

I guess that answers that question.

While this isn't the same as having a film about someone like Sessue Hayakawa and having Hayakawa played by someone who's not Asian American - because I do see a difference in being true to a story like that versus college kids who count cards - I can't help and lament the tired thinking of Hollywood who has no problem putting out all white casts, but decided to stay clear of what could have been an almost all Asian American cast.