April 16, 2013

New Disc Review: PAWN (Blu-Ray/DVD)

Starring Michael Chiklis, Common, Marton Csonkas, Sean Faris, Stephen Lang, Ray Liotta, Nikki Reed, Forest Whitaker. Directed by David A. Armstrong. (2013, 88 min).

Anchor Bay Entertainment

This movie begins with the attempted robbery of a small diner in the middle of the night, but turns into a hostage situation as police surround the place. The violent gang of thugs inside, led by Michael Chiklis, threaten to execute everyone unless their demands are met.

But this is no ordinary diner...it happens to be owned by a powerful mafia boss. And these are no ordinary thugs looking for a quick score...they actually have a mission. And these aren't ordinary cops...many of them have big reasons why this confrontation should end violently. In fact, almost none of the characters in Pawn are what they seem.

A would-be cross between Rashomon and Dog Day Afternoon, Pawn unveils its complicated (or convoluted?) story in non-linear fashion, frequently shifting points-of-view in order to reveal the true intentions of its characters. It's a movie loaded with crooked cops, crooked agents and double-crossing criminals. It's revealed early on that this is no simple robbery. There are plenty of plot twists throughout the movie, which actually starts to work against it after a while. With every new revelation, it becomes increasingly obvious almost everyone who appears onscreen is part of this robbery, except the hapless, recently-paroled rube they plan to pin it on. Plot twists are only fun when you don't know they are coming (like the climax of The Usual Suspects), but Pawn tosses so many of them at us that we eventually cease being surprised.

"I said NO MAYO!"

Still, for a relatively minor-league, low budget movie, it sports a pretty impressive cast, even if most of the better-known ones aren't required to stretch themselves much. Michael Chiklis (inexplicably adopting a Cockney accent) engages in some enjoyable scenery-chewing, though his character has to be one of the dumbest criminals I've seen in a long time. Ray Liotta (whose scenes look like they were all done in a day) is a cold-blooded crooked cop (other than a psycho, who else can you play with a face like that?). Forest Whitaker is a fine actor, but to me, he always looks like it hurts to live. As for rapper-turned actor Common as a hostage negotiator...he doesn't suck, but he's no Ice Cube.

Pawn isn't a bad movie. It's slickly-made on a limited budget and is definitely worth seeing at least once. But it is also unnecessarily complicated for its own good (too many revelations that aren't that revelatory) and never reaches the heights of the classics which obviously inspired it.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Pawn: Behind the Scenes

 (out of 5)

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