Casino—Universal (Blu-ray)

Video: 3/5
Audio: 3.5/5
Extras: 3/5

Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci star in director Martin Scorsese's riveting look at how blind ambition, white-hot passion and 24-karat greed toppled an empire. Las Vegas 1973 is the setting for this fact-based story about the Mob's multi-million dollar casino operation where fortunes and lives were made and lost with a roll of the dice.

This is one of my favorites from Scorsese. I was elated to see Universal release this one early on HD DVD and now bring it to Blu-ray. The film is hard hitting, disturbing, and REALLY entertaining. An epic of sorts, it covers the lives of three principle characters and their rise and fall in the mobster-run Vegas strip. For any fan of the gangster films, this is a must-own.

The HD presentation is good for the most part but the inconsistencies in detail and filming style make for a schizophrenic presentation at times. The film was shot with a couple different styles and this works well for the mood of the film, but the different styles make for varying quality in the presentation. At times detail and dimension are first rate but later shots look a bit soft and flat. Contrast levels are strong for the most part and the color rendition varies from drab to eye popping depending on the locale. Overall I’d say this is a bit better than the HD DVD transfer that I remember, but I don’t think it is a huge difference.

The DTS-HD Master Audio mix is good but not without its own problems. This film has an ongoing narrative throughout and the voice work is inconsistent. It almost sounds like a phasing issue and it was distracting enough to call attention to itself more often than I would have liked. Aside from that things are pretty solid. The soundstage has a very open atmosphere with great use of the surrounds to convey soundstage and environment, especially in the casinos. Dynamic range is good but some of the sound effects sound a bit dated at times.

Rather than a simple port over of the HD DVD extras, Universal has delivered a picture-in-picture behind the scenes feature with interviews and production footage throughout the film. Deleted scenes are included along with some interviews with the principle cast and director.

Casino has always been one of my favorites for Scorsese. It is also one of my favorite roles for DeNiro. The Blu-ray is a nice step up from the previous DVD release but not a huge change from the HD DVD presentation.