William H. Macy, he of the hang-dog eyes, is perfectly cast as Bernie Lootz. A terminal sadsack, Macy is a man whose luck is so bad it’s contagious. He works off a massive debt owed tocasino-manager Alec Baldwin by spreading his bad luck. He has almost finished his term ofservitude when he meets Maria Bello, and everything changes, including his luck. This luck isstill contagious, however, much to Baldwin’s displeasure.
The premise is presposterous, of course, but m…kes perfect sense in the never-never-land ofVegas casinos. The film walks a fine balance between comedy and drama without putting a footwrong, and Baldwin easily earned that Oscar nomination. His character is the most complex ofthe bunch. He is the gangster past his prime but refusing to acknowledge this, and by turns heattracts our sympathy and repulses us. An excellent addition to the pantheon of the casinomovies.
The 5.1 sound is blessed by perfectly clear dialogue, which never distorts, and is never buriedin the mix. Mark Isham’s score (clearly the subject of considerable pride on the part of thefilmmakers) is very nicely rendered. The surround effects are present, but quite low key. Oneis aware of background noise in the casino, but only at the edge of consciousness.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen picture has excellent colours, blacks and contrasts. Thereare no edge enhancement problems, and the image is reasonably sharp. There is, on the otherhand, a fair bit of grain, especially in the first part of the film. Things improve later in the film,but the appearance is a bit of a distance from perfect.
Two commentary tracks here. Director/co-writer Wayne Kramer is joined on the first oneby co-writer Frank Hannah and DP Jim Whitaker, and by composer Mark Isham on the second.The first track breaks the film down scene-by-scene on the technical level, but doesn’t ignore thethematic importance of the scenes. The second commentary, obviously, focuses on the score.That score is also given an isolated track. One of the Sundance Channel’s “Anatomy of a Scene”featurettes is here. Though very promotional, these are still better than the standard featurette,and the focus in this instance is on the “Heater” scene, when a transformed Macy walks throughthe casino and everyone hits the jackpot. This sequencer, along with its companion “Cooler”scene from the beginning of the film are given the multi-angle storyboard treatment. Hitting theangle button toggles the PIP between the film or the storyboard. Selecting the Lions Gate logotriggers and ad for the soundtrack, along with trailers for Godsend, Girl with a PearlEarring and Shattered Glass. The menu is animated and scored, and arrives with along (perhaps too long) introduction.
A smart, enormously engaging little film, which balances every predictable moment witha genuine surprise.
Special Features List
- 2 Audio Commentaries
- Isolated Music Score
- Storyboard Multi-Angle Feature
- Anatomy of a Scene
- Bonus Trailers