21 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board, the movie boasted a fine transfer.
Virtually no issues with sharpness materialized. Only a smidgen of softness ever appeared, as the majority of the flick looked concise and accurate. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge enhancement. In addition, source flaws were absent from this clean presentation.
Colors tended toward the subdued side of the street. Of course, the Vegas scenes zapped us with some lively tones, though even those often tended to be a bit amber or gold tinted. Those tones dominated the film in a quiet manner. Within the design parameters, the hues seemed fine. Blacks were also deep and firm, and shadows looked smooth and clear. This image consistently impressed.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of 21, it was less stellar, but it worked fine for the movie. The soundfield tended to be ambience-oriented. Some exaggerated effects for card scenes added zip to the mix, and the casino floors also opened things up in an involving manner. Music showed good use of all the channels and became a dynamic part of the track. This wasn’t a stellar soundscape, but it brought some zip to the film.
Audio quality always seemed solid. Music was full and rich, with clear highs and tight lows. Effects sounded accurate and dynamic as well, and speech was good. Dialogue came across as natural and concise. The track lacked the ambition for a grade above a “B”, but it was more than acceptable for a flick of this sort.
For this two-disc edition of 21, we get a smattering of extras. On DVD One, we open with an audio commentary from director Robert Luketic and producers Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat that looks at cast and performances, sets and locations, how all the participants came to the project, aspects of card-playing, the adaptation of the source material, and a few other production topics.
The participants provide an enjoyable but generally insubstantial commentary. They touch on a reasonably number of useful subjects but don’t manage to bring a lot of depth to the affair. Still, they keep it breezy and entertaining, so it’s a pleasant listen.
A few ads open DVD One. We get clips for Blu-Ray Disc and The House Bunny. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for Lakeview Terrace, Quarantine, CJ7, Prom Night, Across the Universe, the 21 soundtrack, The Other Boleyn Girl, Casino Royale, Married Life, Vantage Point, Persepolis, The Shield, Made of Honor,Rescue Me and Taking Five.
Over on DVD Two, we find three featurettes. 21 - The Advantage Player runs five minutes, 26 seconds and provides notes from various actors as they tell us a quick history of blackjack and the simple methods you can use to count cards. I guess that makes it 2008’s winner for the DVD Extra Most Likely to Get Your Thumbs Broken. Will the techniques work? Dunno, but it’s a fun little tutorial.
Basic Strategy: A Complete Film Journal runs 24 minutes, 47 seconds and features comments from Luketic, Brunetti, De Luca, novelist Ben Mezrich, original MIT student Jeff Ma, screenwriter Peter Steinfeld, technical advisor Kyle Morris, director of photography Russell Carpenter, production designer Missy Stewart, visual effects supervisor Gray Marshall, and actors Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, and Jacob Pitts. We learn about the source novel and its adaptation, cast, characters and performances, aspects of the casinos and card-playing, cinematography and visual storytelling, shooting in Las Vegas and Boston, sets and locations, effects, and some general thoughts.
I wouldn’t actually call this program “complete”, but it provides a pretty good little overview. We find a mix of nice shots from the set as well as useful comments from those involved. The show creates a positive summary of the production and entertains along the way.
Finally, Money Plays: A Tour of the Good Life goes for seven minutes, eight seconds, and provides remarks from Stewart, Bosworth, Luketic, Sturgess, and costume designer Luca Mosca. “Tour” offers a basic glimpse of some visual design choices, primarily in terms of sets and clothes. It doesn’t tell us a lot, but Mosca does set a record for the number of times one person says “beautiful” in a short featurette; almost literally every sentence he utters includes that word.
DVD Two also includes a Digital Copy of 21. This lets you transfer the flick to your computer, iPhone, iPod or other modern gizmo the youngsters love. I’ll never use it, but it’s there if you want it.
Note that according to the press release, the Digital Copy stands as the only difference between the single-disc and the two-DVD versions of 21. That means your extra $6 goes strictly for the Digital Copy.
At no point should you expect 21 to dazzle you with originality or intelligence. However, it maintains a high entertainment factor that makes it enjoyable in spite of its flaws. The DVD provides excellent picture, solid audio and some interesting extras. This turns out to be a fine release for a pretty good movie.