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The Review at a Glance: ( max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Miramax - 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 121 minutes
Genre: Drama, Crime

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Paul Cicero, John Turturro, Ray Iannicelli, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen
Directed by: John Dahl
Music by: Christopher Young
Written by: David Levien & Brian Koppelman
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 23, 2011

"You've got to play the hand you're dealt."

Film Synopsis:

Academy Award winner Matt Damon (True Grit, The Bourne Supremacy) and Edward Norton (Fight Club, The Italian Job) star in this story of passion, risk and the extreme price of friendship! After losing a high-stakes card game, Mike (Damon) gives up gambling for law school and a fresh start with his girlfriend (Gretchen Mol –Cradle Will Rock). But then his best buddy (Norton) gets out of prison and in over his head with a ruthless card shark (John Malkovich – Being John Malkovich). From there, Mike’s strong sense of loyalty – and the lure of the game – draws him back to the tables in a game he cannot afford to lose! Also starring John Turturro (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Transformers ) and Oscar® winner Martin Landau (Ed Wood ).

My Take:

The description above, taken from the press kit, sums up the plot of the film quite well, so I will forgo my usual recap.

Gambling and Grifter stories always seem to captivate my attention. "The Sting" and "The Hustler" are two of my top ten movies, so I am naturally attracted to films like "Rounders", and forgive its faults a bit easier because of its subject. "Rounders" tries really hard to fall in with the likes of 1961s "The Hustler" or even 1965s "The Cincinnati Kid". It fails to come close to the gritty reality of "The Hustler", or the strong and silent machismo by Steve McQueen as "The Cincinnati Kid". Where rounders fails to be 'deep', it exceeds in being a fun ride, with some awesome supporting characters, including the show stealing Russian accent of John Malkovich as the films heavy, Teddy KGB. I loved the inter-play between Mike McDermott (Damon) and his Law Professor and almost surrogate father Abe Petrovsky (Martin Landau). Come to think of it, the films failing points are in its main characters relationships. The "love" affair Mike and Jo (the striking Gretchen Mol) was more annoying then an asset to the film, and then there is the relationship between old best friends/poker partners, Mike and "Worm" (Edward Nortion), which felt forced and unnatural. I just felt that in reality, after so much bad happening, so many disappointed looks and such bad history, Mike, who is smart enough to be in law school, would have learned better. There is a point where Mike could have just dropped Worm and his world of bad decisions, but he just keeps getting sucked into his junk and his old gambling ways. I know thats the point, the addiction and the rush, but he seemed to have the sense enough to seek a better avenue to play cards and gamble besides getting sucked back in with his deadbeat friend who was just released from prison.

"Rounders" has a seedy, warm and smokey underground atmosphere thanks to some top notch direction by John Dahl (Joy Ride, True Blood, Dexter), and a moody original score by Christopher Young (Spider-Man 3, Drag Me to Hell). The films feel and great performances make it a worth while watch, it just doesn't live up to the best in its genre. "Rounders" is a fun movie that I enjoyed re-visiting, but it is just missing that je ne sais quoi.

Parental Guide:

Rated R for pervasive strong language, some sexuality and brief drug use.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 86

  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:

Video: 90

  • Resolution/Clarity:

  • Black level/Shadow detail:

  • Color reproduction:

  • Fleshtones:

  • Compression:
"Rounders" comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29.6 mbps and DTS-HD MA 5.1 Sound that has an average bitrate of 3.2 mbps.

Lionsgate hit it out of the park with its transfer of 1998's "Rounders". I couldn't find a fault, well besides the fact that the source itself kept it just under reference. This is without a doubt the best "Rounders" has been released. Black levels are inky and detailed, and the films resolution shows off all the definition that the source has to offer. The films color palette borders warm and on the darker side and its transfer shows off what was filmed flawlessly with no signs of compression or tinkering. Though having the rare moments of softer shots/scenes, I was quite impressed and glad this one is in my collection. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track was as impressive. Dialogue was clean, and the mix was quite sonically pleasing. It had a great stability in the front sound-stage as well as extremely immersive effects and atmospherics in the surround channels. It was better then anticipated.

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary with Director John Dahl, Screenwriters David Levien and Brian Koppelman and Actor Edward Norton

  • Audio Commentary with Professional Poker Players Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson

  • Behind-the-Scenes Special

  • Inside Professional Poker

  • Champion Poker Tips

Final Thoughts:

'Rounders' is an enjoyable movie, and it's nice to go back close to 15 years and see a baby faced Matt Damon and Ed Norton in action. To watch Malcovich steal the show is worth the price of admission, and the rest of the supporting cast are all excellent. The film fails on its primary relationships, but makes up for it in mood, interesting characters and situations. The Blu-ray is lacking in special features (all around 5 minutes and in standard definition), but commentary junkies with be happy to see two different tracks included. Lionsgate's transfer looks and sounds better then anticipated, making this an easy purchase recommendation to fans, and an easy rental to all else.

Lee Weber
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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3,696 Posts
Lee...I was starting to worry about you in some of your reviews of kids fare as well as "never heard of" cinema reviews.....

One of my favorite flicks. Love the acting throughout.

Thanks for the review....hope to see more reviews of more accessible flicks.
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