Set Up wants to be some personal revenge/vendetta-centric crime drama but instead we get poor writing, even worse acting and uninspiring direction not to mention an odd portion where some dark comedy is thrown in at random.
Genre(s): Crime, Drama
Lionsgate | R – 85 min. – $24.99 | September 20, 2011
Directed by: Mike Gunther
Writer(s): Mike Gunther & Mike Behrman (written by)
Cast: Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Bruce Willis, Ryan Phillippe, Jenna Dewan, Randy Couture, James Remar
Features: Audio Commentary, Featurettes
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 1.5/5
Set Up purports to be a gritty crime drama mixed with a revenge plotline. Unfortunately what we get instead are some truly awful acting, bad writing, utterly shit direction and a style that looked incredibly cheap, though given the reportedly $12 million budget, they no doubt spent most of it on salaries and skimped out on everything else important.
The movie centers on high school friends Sonny (CURTIS “50 CENT” JACKSON), Vincent (RYAN PHILLIPPE) and Dave (BRETT GRANSTAFF) who have grown up together and make their living taking on heists including their latest involving stealing $5 million worth of diamonds. It is during the robbery that Vincent goes Waingro from Heat on the courier. Things only get worse when at the payoff location Vincent betrays his friends by shooting both of them, killing Dave, and taking the loot for himself (think Edward Norton in The Italian Job remake, only less convincing).
Of course Sonny survives and receives help from the friendly neighborhood tattoo/piercer (WILL YUN LEE) who promptly removes the bullet which didn’t penetrate thanks to Sonny’s crucifix necklace. Yeah, never seen anything that symbolic in other movies… In any case, now it’s personal but he has other problems as the owners of the diamonds want their merchandise back and have sent a hitman to retrieve it (making a deal with Sonny for him to help with no repercussions for his part in the robbery).
Oh, and there’s yet another wrinkle in what should’ve been a simple revenge plot: in his zest to find Vincent, he pulls a gun on some mobsters to gain information (and also robs them) but these gangsters are run by mob boss known only as, here’s a new one, Mr. Biggs (BRUCE WILLIS) who is none too happy with Sonny. However, he’s willing to overlook what Sonny has done and will help find Vincent and the money from the heist if Sonny would do something for him. He’s instructed Sonny to steal $2 million that was itself stolen by Biggs’ now deceased accountant… money that was buried with the accountant and which is now being dug up by some Russian mobsters; he’s to wait for them to do the work and then take the money from them. Seriously, why make things so damn complicated. The plot takes a sidetrack from this sidetrack when Biggs’ right hand man, Petey (RANDY COUTURE) is along to make sure Sonny completes his assignment, accidentally shoots himself while toying around with a loaded weapon at Sonny’s drug dealing friend’s house.
It’s so incredibly lame and downright dumb. All of it.
And that’s what Set Up boils down to, a stupid, overly complicated movie that should’ve been about revenge than a movie trying to pretend to be some deep crime drama. It doesn’t help matters that the sidetrack at the drug dealer’s house also interjects some dark humor which admittedly does work… if only it had been in an entirely different movie.
The acting is amateur even from a couple of veterans like Bruce Willis and Ryan Phillippe and downright atrocious from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (who also served as one of the 17 producers) proving once again why singers/rappers should stick to their day jobs. This isn’t to say it can’t happen (in fact Sean Combs a.k.a. P. Diddy was pretty good in Monster’s Ball) but it’s rare. As far as Willis goes, I have to think he wandered onto the set by accident and decided to just stick around for a few because the performance, even with a poor script, was phoned in and uninspiring (or even fun). With Phillippe, he’s the type of actor who can turn in a great performance but you have to have a good script and director… which he did not receive here.
Set Up was co-written and directed by Mike Gunther who also makes his living as a stunt double and stunt coordinator for a variety of films including Star Trek, The Matrix Reloaded, Hulk, Spider-Man 2 and… Live Free or Die Hard which would explain how Willis wandered onto the set. Gunther’s previous directing gigs include Beatdown (co-starring Eric Balfour) and a couple ‘making-of’ featurettes.
When I was reading over Gunther’s filmography, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one Paul Abascal. Who is Abascal you might ask? Well, his sole feature film credit is Paparazzi and was in fact Mel Gibson’s hair stylist before sinking his teeth, or comb, into directing. Now to be fair, Gunther has a better background into film making but you can see the connections they established and the films they direct were amateurish if not downright awful (though Paparazzi had its moments so point goes to the hair stylist in this match-up).
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
Audio Commentary – Co-Writer/Director Mike Gunther and Stunt Coordinator Kyle Woods sit down for a decent commentary with the pair giving insights into how the film was shot, different locations and preparing for the variety of stunts. As far as technical commentaries go, it’s not bad but it’s not exactly enthralling either.
Making Set Up (9:17; HD) – This is your typical/average ‘making-of’ featurette where we get introduced to the characters and get a plot outline through cast and crew interviews. You’re really not going to learn anything interesting from this…
Inside the Gun Locker: The Weapons of Set Up (3:37; SD) – The prop master shows off the weapons used in the film including the rubber ones since characters constantly get butted in the head with one.
Interviews with the Cast and Crew (TRT 24:36; SD) – We get a few one-on-one interviews with Director Mike Gunther (12:27), Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (8:33) and Randy Couture (3:36). So apparently Phillippe wasn’t available? As a side, the audio in this is absolutely horrible.
Set Up Trailer (2:21; HD) – The Red Band trailer for Set Up has been included.
Preview – Hostage, House of the Rising Sun (red band), Blood Out (red band), Caught in the Crossfire (red band)
VIDEO – 3.25/5
Whether the film cost $22 million or a mere $12 million, I’ve seen far better looking films made for a few grand. Set Up looks absolutely oversaturated from beginning to end and I realize the director was trying to set up a gritty style to Detroit but instead it just looks a tad cheap, though the detail level wasn’t bad and there is a fair amount of color to provide for an at least decent HD transfer, though it still doesn’t look the best.
AUDIO – 3.25/5
The disc comes with an adequate if not disappointing 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. While dialogue levels were alright, it was the action scenes, especially the heist, that didn’t show much depth. As you can imagine the movie has plenty of gunfire but rather than hearing a boom with each shot, it was merely flat and almost sounded like a Dolby Surround track.
OVERALL – 2.25/5
Overall, Set Up wants to be some personal revenge/vendetta-centric crime drama but instead we get poor writing, even worse acting and uninspiring direction not to mention an odd portion where some dark comedy is thrown in at random. 50 Cent proves once again why some rappers should stick with their day jobs as his line readings were flat and emotionless despite his thirst to avenge the death of his friend. The Blu-ray has an average video and adequate audio.