High Roller appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some rough moments, the transfer usually looked fairly good.
Sharpness varied but improved as the movie progressed. During the first half, some shots came across as a bit soft and ill-defined. These tendencies never became overwhelming; the images just looked a little off, and the movie became more distinctive as it progressed. No issues with jagged edges occurred, but I saw some minor shimmering, and I also noticed moderate edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, grain looked a bit heavier than I’d expect, and I also detected periodic specks and marks. As with everything else, those diminished as the flick continued, and they were more frequent during the first half.
Given the fact that much of Roller took place in the gaudy confines of Vegas, I expected a lively palette, and the movie usually delivered. Across the board, colors were nicely bright and vivid. The tones always seemed vibrant and concise. Blacks occasionally seemed a little inky, but they usually presented reasonable depth. Low-light shots could be a but on the dense side, but they also usually demonstrated good opacity. After the flick’s first half, I was leaning toward a “C” for it, but the second segment looked strong enough to bring my grade up to a “B-“.
To my surprise, High Roller came with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. If anything occurred to differentiate the two, I couldn’t detect it. The mixes sounded identical to me.
Since Roller stuck mostly with dialogue and music, it didn’t offer a showy track. The score and songs demonstrated good stereo imaging, while the effects stayed largely with ambient impressions. Frankly, it’s hard to recall any sequences that stood out from the rest. Casinos showed a nice feeling of environment, and other situations used the five speakers to create a believable setting. That was about it, however, as the track failed to do anything memorable.
I always thought the mix offered solid audio quality. One casino scene showed a little edginess, but otherwise speech came across as concise and crisp. Although music could have boasted a little more low-end, I felt the songs and score were generally well-developed and full. As I noted, effects didn’t play an active role in the proceedings, but they were accurate and without any noticeable flaws. The soundtrack did its job and earned a “B-“.
When we head to the DVD’s extras, only one biggie appears here: an audio commentary with director AW Vidner, actors Michael Imperioli and Renee Faia, and poker expert Vincent Van Patten. At the start, Vidner and Faia sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion. Imperioli joins them via a remote hook-up after about 20 minutes or so, and Van Patten appears a couple of times around the film’s halfway point; he’s recorded separately and has his remarks edited into the body of the piece.
The commentary starts without much energy and never really manages to ignite. We learn a lot about locations, as Vidner often tells us what he shot where, and we also hear a bit about casting and working with actors, set design and period elements, the life of the real Stu Ungar, and general production anecdotes. During his short remarks, Van Patten tells us a little more about Ungar and the specifics of pro poker.
All of this probably sounds good, but the track moves slowly and fails to become very interesting. Plenty of lulls pop up along the way, and the information provided usually remains basic and without much merit. I can’t say I feel like I learned a whole lot from this tedious commentary.
We also find a music video for “Yesterdays” by Marc Eric. The video shows a haunted grungy dude - Eric, I suppose - as he rides around the desert and mulls his mistakes. Neither the song - which sounds like “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door Part 2” - nor the video are any good.
Finally, More from New Line offers a few ads. We get promos for After the Sunset, Ripley’s Game, Blow, Knockaround Guys and Dinner Rush.
Trivia: There’s no doubt that Ungar knew how to play Texas Hold 'Em, as he won the World Series of Poker two years in a row (1981, 1982), but he was also an accomplished gin rummy player – some say the best ever. He allegedly had to make the transition to poker because his reputation made it too difficult to get any action.
Despite the presence of a potentially interesting lead character, High Roller plays more like a cheap Scorsese rip-off with few redeeming qualities. Michael Imperioli offers a decent performance as the lead, but otherwise this is a tacky, poorly told production. The DVD presents decent but unexceptional picture and sound along with skimpy extras that include a bland audio commentary. Avoid this cheesy dud.