Pawn is an acceptable mystery-thriller that has a respectable cast who unfortunately seemed to mostly phone it in except perhaps for Michael Chiklis who was having fun with his thick Aussie accent. Otherwise, as interesting as the story was and comparatively well done as the flash backs were, the movie falls apart at the end coming crashing down with an utterly unsatisfying finale.
Genre(s): Crime, Suspense/Thriller
Anchor Bay | R – 89 min. – $29.99 | April 23, 2013
Directed by: David A. Armstrong
Writer(s): Jerome Anthony White (written by)
Cast: Max Beesley, Jonathan Bennett, Michael Chiklis, Common, Marton Csokas, Sean Faris, Stephen Lang, Ray Liotta, Nikki Reed, Jessica Szohr, Forest Whitaker
Features: Featurette, DVD Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 20.9 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
Pawn is the latest ensemble crime-drama featuring a minor who’s who of actors. The story opens late night at a diner where a police officer named Will (FOREST WHITAKER) walks in to play some chess and gets a cup of coffee with old friend Charlie (STEPHEN LANG) standing behind the counter. But there’s something off as everybody seems to be nervous and on edge. As the conversation between Will and Charlie continues, they seem to communicate in code when Charlie suddenly takes the hot pot of coffee and pours it on a man hiding underneath the counter, holding a shotgun. A gun battle with three baddies ensues with shots ringing through the diner at fast pace hitting both suspects and innocents alike. Sounds like a great way to start a movie, right? Well, all of that apparently was in Charlie’s head and we start over with the tense conversation.
We then take a flash forward inside a hospital room where a character credited only as “Man in the Suit” (RAY LIOTTA) is questioning a badly injured man about the incident, wanting to know exactly what happened. Flash back and we see the beginnings of the events. Enter Derrick (MICHAEL CHIKLIS sporting a thick Aussie accent) and two of his crew, Billy (MAX BEESLEY) and Nigel (CAMERON DENNY), as they show their weapons and order everyone on the ground and to hand them their watches and wallets. However, these robbers aren’t merely there for easy cash but it becomes obvious it’s an inside job and Derrick wants the money, and something else, in the secret safe.
When the robbery begins, hiding inside the bathroom is Nick (SEAN FARIS) recently released from prison but, in a flashback, promises his pregnant wife Amanda (NIKKI REED) that he is going to change his ways and find a job. Back to the bathroom, Nick wisely stays put and calls 911 which ultimately put a kink in the robbers’ plans although they have no idea how big of a kink it was…
Remember Officer Will from the beginning? Well, although he realized there was something going down in the diner, he goes to the restroom, Will hiding in one of the stalls, and calls a fellow officer, Barnes (MARTON CSOKAS), revealing he knows about the robbery but it wasn’t going to plan. See, in yet ANOTHER flashback, we find Barnes meeting with Derrick to plan the robbery as he needs a hard drive, in the hands of mobster Yuri (RONALD GUTTMAN), containing many names including his own and he’s been informed there’s an FBI raid going to go down the next day. The timing was for good reason as Derrick discovers the safe is on a timed lock and cannot be opened until midnight and thus the robbers must keep control for 30 minutes as he stupidly went in too early.
There is some side action going on outside of the diner. First is the police presence outside with Barnes attempting to clean up the situation while butting heads with chief negotiator Jeff Porter (COMMON) as well as Nick’s Internal Affairs investigator brother, Patrick (JORDAN BELFI). Next, the “Man in the Suit” is at work picking up Amanda and making a phone call, on a private line at the diner, to Nick and threatening him to put the hard drive back in the safe or else…
Pawn is a relatively slick ensemble movie with a good storyline, some fine editing with the flash forwards and multiple flashbacks as they expand each of the main character’s motives. It’s a short movie but it does manage to keep one’s attention until the end despite some of the messier points.
The biggest issue I had was with the cast itself. It’s a sad day when Common delivers the best performance and it really wasn’t even good to begin with. Michael Chiklis, who also served as a producer, was a bit odd with the thick Australian accent to the point where it sounded more like a caricature than authentic (but I could be wrong); Forest Whitaker, the other headliner, makes a credited cameo and obvious favor for his former “Shield” co-star as he only appears for maybe 10-minutes and that’s being generous; Mr. Ensemble himself, Ray Liotta, is surprisingly wooden with his delivery seemingly not giving a damn about his role, perhaps thinking more of his appearance in his next 10 movies of 2013; Nikki Reed gets the thankless job of playing the loving wife but frankly she doesn’t get a whole lot to do; Stephen Lang provides some weight to his scenes quite nicely… unfortunately he’s gone after about 40-minutes; and finally Sean Faris is perfect playing a young stupefied Tom Cruise look-alike.
The film was directed by David A. Armstrong making his debut after working as a cinematographer on numerous projects including Saw 1-6 and Hellraiser: Revelations, and with Pawn, although it didn’t look the best and certainly didn’t get the greatest performances from his cast, does at least manage to take a relatively simple story and expand it to feature length. The screenplay was written by Jay Anthony White marking only his second feature-length film.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.5/5
Outside of including a DVD Copy, the only feature on this disc is the standard Pawn: Behind the Scenes (23:09; HD) featurette. It has some cast and crew interviews chatting about their characters, the plot and what got them involved with the project.
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Pawn arrives on Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer and a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture isn’t the best as it was shot, like most nowadays (DTV and theatrical) digitally, so you’re going to get a pristine looking video with no artifacting or pixilation (always a good thing) but often times skin tones and other elements look a bit too glossy or clean. Even so, the detail levels are pretty good and while the color array is intentionally muted going for a more “gritty” style I suppose, this is more than acceptable looking transfer.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track really kicks things off providing a fine range of audio from gunfire making use of every channel, clear dialogue mainly from the center speaker to general ambient noises from the front and rear channels. Given what I assume was a low budget I was rather impressed with this lossless audio track which should at least provide for a nice home theater experience.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, Pawn is an acceptable mystery-thriller that has a respectable cast who unfortunately seemed to mostly phone it in except perhaps for Michael Chiklis who was having fun with his thick Aussie accent. Otherwise, as interesting as the story was and comparatively well done as the flash backs were, the movie falls apart at the end coming crashing down with an utterly unsatisfying finale. Still, the Blu-ray here does offer up good video/audio transfers while the singular feature wasn’t bad.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.