Empire State had a lot to offer beginning with a semi-respectable cast beginning with Dwayne Johnson and Liam Hemsworth, both of whom were wasted and Emma Roberts was even worse with a bit role with very few lines and not a whole lot to do.
Genre(s): Crime, Drama
Lionsgate | R – 94 min. – $24.99 | September 3, 2013
Directed by: Dito Montiel
Writer(s): Adam Mazer (written by)
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Emma Roberts, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Angarano, Nikki Reed
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, UV Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Disc Size: 22.6 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 1.5/5
Hollywood likes to release “Based on True Story” movies and while more often they stink, a few gems shine through. Empire State… isn’t one of those. It’s a turkey and the studio knew it unable or unwilling to give it a theatrical showing despite two recognizable actors in the leads who had a pretty good year at the box office.
The story follows Chris (LIAM HEMSWORTH), a young man whose dreams of becoming a police officer are crushed and to earn a living takes a low-paying job working for a ramshackle armored car company where the security is lax and the hazard pay, as he discovers early on, is lousy when his partner is killed during a robbery but the company will not pay the full benefits thanks to some kind of loophole. For his part, because he froze, Chris is relegated to desk duty in the quiet overnight shift.
When Chris divulges the crap security to his screw-up of a cousin, Eddie (MICHAEL ANGARANO), devises a plan to rob the place of millions with the help of a couple goons who work for the local mobster, though they want to keep him out of it. While at first Chris is for the plan, he rightly gets cold feet after there is an attempted robbery of the joint the night Chris and his crew were going to hit it. That robbery was foiled by Detective Ransome (DWAYNE JOHNSON) thanks to a tip but Eddie, in his infinite wisdom wants to, and does, go through with the robbery.
However, Ransome is suspicious of Chris believing he is involved and his world only closes in even further when the mobster gets wind of what happened, and also the attempted murder of one of his guys, and making matters even worse, Chris’ overworked and underpaid father works for said mobster.
If you’re bored yet, imagine wading through it. For a movie that purports itself to be not only based on a true story but involves a heist of millions of dollars, this is one dull movie. Not helping matters are the performances of decent actors who seem to be sleepwalking especially Dwayne Johnson whose presence is particularly perplexing, vastly miscast. Equally puzzling is the casting of Emma Roberts whose face is not only on the front cover but she’s billed second. Why this is strange is her character, who I guess is supposed to be a quasi love interest for Hemsworth, is barely in this thing making an appearance for, at best, 5-minutes and those minutes were pretty insignificant to the point a no-name actress could’ve done just as a good of a job.
Beyond the wooden acting, the main two problems with Empire State is that it was helmed by a director, Dito Montiel, who somehow gets a respectable cast as seen with The Son of No One with Channing Tatum, Juliette Binoche, Katie Holmes and Al Pacino, but squanders it with pedestrian direction and a half-assed script in need of a few rewrites. Well, the same applies here and, here’s the second problem, the story it’s based upon seemed more worthy of a procedural TV episode versus a theatrical film.
In the end, Empire State is one dull movie and although on the surface its $11 million production budget seems reasonable with this cast, it’s pretty much money down the toilet, or as I like to call, a tax write-off. It’s easy to see why it never received a theatrical release as story-wise this had direct-to-video written all over it if not for the cast.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a reflective slip cover. Inside is a download code for the UltraViolet Digital Copy.
Audio Commentary – Director Dito Montiel sits down for an informative track. Being solo, it does tend to get a bit dry and he could’ve used another person in the room to help fill dead air.
Deleted Scenes (9:19; HD) – Three unnecessary scenes are included.
Creating an Empire: Behind the Scenes (10:28; HD) – This featurette consist of cast and crew interviews talking about their characters and the plot based on real events.
Anatomy of a Heist: The Mastermind Behind the Robbery (15:23; HD) – The real life Chris Potamitis tells his story on how he pulled off the heist. This is easily the best feature on the set.
Theatrical Trailer (2:33; HD)
Previews – Snitch, Freelancers, Fire with Fire
VIDEO – 4.25/5
Empire State arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate and although it’s not the greatest looking transfer, given it looks like a made-for-TV flick, it’s not too bad. The detail levels are pretty good and the colors seem well balanced.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has a wide range to it from the quieter, more dialogue-driven moments to the action/suspense scenes which packs a bit more of a punch. Dialogue levels are nice and clear and the front and rear channels show off the ambient noises.
OVERALL – 1.5/5
Overall, Empire State had a lot to offer beginning with a semi-respectable cast beginning with Dwayne Johnson and Liam Hemsworth, both of whom were wasted and Emma Roberts was even worse with a bit role with very few lines and not a whole lot to do. The Blu-ray released by Lionsgate has good audio/video transfers and an OK selection of bonus material.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.