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Lay the Favorite (2012)

The Weinstein Company
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/5/2013

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/12/2013

What has happened to Bruce Willis? Do you remember when a Bruce Willis movie used to be a big deal? The actor has always made some eclectic choices and throughout the 80s and 90s he would mix huge blockbusters with cameo appearances in smaller movies. And today, even when he has movies like A Good Day to Die Hard opening nationally (which flopped), he's showing up in more and more obscure, Direct-to-Video movies...while still appearing in somewhat respectable movies like Moonrise Kingdom and Looper. Do his girls need college money? I don't know the answer, but something is happening with Bruce to make him star in something like Lay the Favorite.

Beth Raymer (Rebecca Hall) is a private dancer...a dancer for money...who is tired of her dull life in Florida. So, with her father's blessing, she and her dog move to Las Vegas, where she hopes to become a cocktail waitress. While in a casino, she meets Holly (Laura Prepon), who introduces her to Dink Heimowitz (Bruce Willis). Dink is a bookmaker of sorts who runs a small, but elaborate gambling operation. He takes a shine to Beth's perky nature and her ability to remember numbers and he hires her. But, Beth soon finds herself attracted to Dink, who is married to the very jealous Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Knowing that this can lead to no good, Beth soon throws herself into other relationships. but work and business-wise, but she keeps getting into trouble.

In this age where seemingly every movie is "Based on a True Story" or "Inspired by Actual Events", it seems odd that the makers of Lay the Favorite weren't trumpeting the fact that Beth Raymer is a real person and that her adventures in Las Vegas actually happened. Perhaps they were afraid that we would search for Beth's story on-line and discover that anything, no matter how mundane the facts are, would be better than their meandering, pointless movie.

Before we jump into the specific problems with Lay the Favorite, let's talk about the cast. Again, Bruce Willis deserves better than this. From his hangdog look to the awful clothes his character wears to the way he can barely muster the strength to say some of his lines, Willis simply looks miserable here. Was that acting or was he simply reacting to the material. Was Oscar winner Catherine Zeta Jones looking for a comedy to off-set her more dramatic roles? Between this and Playing for Keeps, she's on her way to appearing in the most Blu-ray stinkers of 2013. Joshua Jackson and Vince Vaughn try to muster some energy for their small roles, but they simply can't do enough. Lead actress Rebecca Hall was good in The Town and in the obscure British horror movie The Awakening, but here, looking like Shannon Elizabeth's stunt double, she's merely annoying.

But, ultimately, Lay the Favorite’s downfall is the way in which the story is presented. The film was directed by veteran filmmaker Stephen Frears, but it’s clear that he’s lost his way here. When the very first credit at the end of a movie is for “Additional Editing”, you know that someone put some work into a film to try and set things right. From the first scene, the movie has a very odd rhythm and it does nothing to grab the viewer. We simply watch Beth go from one scene to another with little sense of narrative flow. She’s giggling in Dink’s office, she’s giggling at a party, she’s giggling in New York...and it’s very difficult to care. The movie wants to make gambling interesting and exciting and it fails on that front as well. Even if I clearly understood all of the logo used here, I doubt that the gambling scenes would have gotten my blood pumping.

To say that is a waste of talent would be an understatement. The film simply crawls along offering a series of uninteresting scenes which march along to a stereotypical ending. If Beth Raymer’s story is so interesting, perhaps someone should have made a documentary about her.

Lay the Favorite finds the odds against it on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of The Weinstein Company and Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only some mild grain at times and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably the bright lights of Vegas and the image is never overly dark or bright. The tropical scenes show just how crisp this transfer is and demonstrate the depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For the most part, this track delivers fairly standard audio. The few casino scenes provide some nice surround sound effects. The stereo effects display good separation. The in-film music provides some minor subwoofer action.

The lone extra feature on the Lay the Favorite Blu-ray Disc is a reel of eleven DELTED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. All of these are quite brief and they are all fairly mundane dialogue sequences.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.