Lay the Favorite – Blu-ray
Starz / Anchor Bay
Release Date: Mar 5, 2013
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 3 of 5


With big names like Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vince Vaughn gracing the Blu-ray cover of Lay the Favorite, I went into this film with high and possibly unrealistic hopes, but 90 minutes later I felt like I had just watched a smarter and less sexier version of Showgirls. We meet Beth (Rebecca Hall) on her final day working as a “private dancer”. After her last client pulls a gun she decides it’s time for a career change, so with the encouragement of her father (Corbin Bernsen) she moves from Florida to Las Vegas in a surprisingly empty pick-up truck to seek her fortune as a cocktail waitress.

Upon arrival she learns it’s harder to break into waitressing than she thought, so with the recommendation of her new friend, Holly (Laura Prepon) she finds a job working with Dink (Bruce Willis) at Dink, Inc., a fast-paced gambling operation. Her charming smile and quirky, innocent nature make her an instant hit with Dink and his two male assistants, but it’s Beth’s proficiency with numbers (and letters) that make her a valuable asset to the operation, at least until Dink’s wife, Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones) returns from her cruise and jealousy rears its ugly head. Things get a bit predictable as Beth starts to fall for Dink, even to the point of asking him to leave his wife, forcing Dink to fire her.

Without his good luck charm Dink starts losing big, meanwhile Beth finds a new romance with Jeremy (Joshua Jackson), a vacationing New York City journalist, and ends up moving to the Big Apple where she hooks up with one of Dink’s associates, Rosie (Vince Vaughn) who is running his own illegal gambling operation. When Beth questions the danger of illegal bookmaking in NYC, Rosie takes his operation to the Caribbean Islands where things really take off and Beth starts making more money than she ever dreamed. But when one of her clients (John Carroll Lynch), back in NYC defaults on a $75,000 loss and gets mixed up with the FBI, Beth must return to the city along with Dink and Tulip to shakedown the deadbeat gambler.

Lay the Favorite looks impressive enough on this 1080p AVC-encoded transfer of a film that was originally shot on digital. The colors are warm and natural with great skin tones, deep blacks, sharp contrast, and plenty of detail in both close-ups and the larger establishing shots. There’s not much content here to exploit the benefits of Blu-ray and I’m guessing this will look just as good on streaming HD. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is sorely underutilized in what is mostly a dramatic movie laden with conversations. Dink’s office and the few scenes in the casino offer up some rear channel opportunities. There was no memorable music with the exception of the closing credit dance sequence.

There isn’t much in the way of extras. There are 11 Deleted Scenes totaling just shy of 8 minutes, which in my opinion should have just been left in the film. Their removal doesn’t take anything away from the story, but their inclusion would have added some useful and interesting insight into a few of the characters. There are also a few trailers that run prior to the top menu, but they can be skipped and oddly enough, cannot be accessed from within the menus.

Lay the Favorite is a fun movie with interesting characters and a unique, albeit limited look into organized sports gambling. Rebecca Hall was a delight to watch as she blossomed from naïve Florida stripper to an almost thug-like NYC bookie, but always maintaining that giddy charm throughout the entire transition. Bruce is…well…Bruce, Vaughn is predictable, and Jones is unrecognizable. It’s nice to see Jackson working after Fringe and I look forward to seeing more of Hall in Iron Man 3, but for anyone who isn’t a…ahem…diehard fan of Bruce Willis or a gambling junkie, laying down $15-20 for this movie on Blu-ray is a risky bet. It will be streaming soon enough and will be just as enjoyable.