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Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe(TV) (2011)
Follows Sam Axe on a mission in Latin America and gives us a glimpse into his military past.
For more about Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe and the Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray release, see Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on July 27, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Kiele Sanchez, Chandra West, John Diehl
Director: Jeffrey Donovan
» See full cast & crew
Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray Review
Bruce Campbell gets his own feature-length prequel spin-off.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, July 27, 2011
Part The A-Team, part MacGyver, USA's Burn Notice is a smart spy series that's build up quite a fan base over the show's past four seasons, thanks to its crackling dialogue, wry humor, and intense underdog action, pitting "burned" C.I.A. agent-turned-private investigator Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) against drug runners, con-men, kidnappers, and organized low-life scum in general. Mixing episodic, "P.I. for hire" plots with an ongoing narrative about Westen's unexplained dismissal from the C.I.A., the show strikes a balance not often found in basic cable television: you can drop in for any given episode and have a good time, but there are certainly rewards for dedicated fans who follow the overarching story. The Fall of Sam Axe is for them. A feature-length, made-for-TV prequel, Fall charts the previously only hinted at background of Westen's wisecracking, womanizing former-Navy SEAL sidekick, Sam Axe, played by the inimitable cult favorite, Bruce Campbell, star of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series. As Campbell would say, groovy.
The Fall of Sam Axe opens in 2005, two years before the events of Burn Notice's pilot episode. In a stark white Navy dress uniform, Sam reports to the American embassy in Bogota, Colombia, to be questioned about a botched mission. (The first thing he does when he sits down is ask for a beer, a move that will provoke a grin on the faces of longtime series fans.) Sam proceeds to tell the entire story, and his tale, of course, becomes the film. It all starts when our lantern-jawed, tail-chasing hero finds himself unknowingly in bed with Admiral Maitland's all-too-eager wife. Maitland finds out about the tryst and decides to send Sam off on the most unenviable assignment available--a six-month-long slog through the South American jungle in pursuit of a supposedly dangerous terrorist cell known as the Espada Ardiente.
When he gets to Colombia, Sam teams up with a local militia group led by the conspicuously accommodating Comandante Veracruz (Pedro Pascal), and together they head to a remote clinic that's rumored to be Espada Ardiente's next target. Doctor Ben Delaney (RonReaco Lee) and food relief specialist Amanda Maples (Lost's Kiele Sanchez) don't believe Sam's warnings about a possible attack and are hesitant to evacuate, but their minds are changed when Sam discovers the shocking truth--it's Veracruz who is plotting to destroy the clinic, in a frame-job bid to get government aid for his militia. The Espada Ardiente? They're nothing more than a loosely organized band of rag-tag goat herders. With help from Beatriz (Ilza Rosario), a young rebel, Sam and the NGO workers team up with the woefully underarmed Espada Ardiente to protect themselves from the real enemy.
All in all, The Fall of Sam Axe isn't too different from a normal Burn Notice episode, other than the fact that it's longer, was shot on location in South America, and focuses on Bruce Campbell's character rather than Jeffrey Donovan, who makes a brief cameo here and also directs the film. This, I think, is a good thing. Like 24: Redemption, a similar TV movie spin-off, The Fall is novel enough to get fans excited for the new season, but it doesn't drastically alter what they've come to expect from the show. The general formula is the same--the NGO and the Espada Ardiente are essentially the "clients" this time around--and the tone is unchanged, mixing snappy, one-liner-laden dialogue with guns-a-blazing action and copious explosions by way of improvised bombs. (If any TV series is worthy of inheriting the mantle of The A-Team--down to the rather non-violent violence, where hardly anyone ever gets realistically injured or killed on screen--it's this one.)
As as "origin" story for the show's main source of comic relief, The Fall of Sam Axe also wisely avoids getting too serious on us. There are no skeletons in Sam's closet, no crushing tragedies, no deep, dark secrets. Sam's "fall"--that is, his discharge from the Navy--is the result of his willingness to cheerfully break protocol to help those in need. This is totally in keeping with his character. That's not to say there aren't any surprises. We finally learn the origin of Sam's "Chuck Finley" alias, and in a bit of wink-wink fanservice, there are several nods to Bruce Campbell's pre-Burn Notice career, including an Army of Darkness-inspired chainsaw scene. Best of all, the Espada Ardiente call Sam "The Chin."
I'm not sure The Fall of Sam Axe will win over any new converts to showrunner Matt Nix's series, but longtime Burn Notice followers will enjoy the spin-off prequel for what it is--a fun made-for-TV-movie tangent that gives fan-favorite Bruce Campbell more time in the spotlight. And that's always welcome.
Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray, Video Quality
Burn Notice: Season Two got an inconsistent, artificially grainy, sometimes nearly unwatchable Blu-ray release, and 20th Century Fox has since understandably shied away from putting out the following seasons in high definition. If Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe is any indication, however, hopefully that will change going forward. Despite its made-for-TV-movie pedigree, this prequel looks excellent on Blu-ray, with a 1080p/AVC encode that's sharp, clean, and colorful. Shot on high definition video, The Fall of Sam Axe boasts a degree of clarity that the series has never before been able to obtain on home video. Facial textures are minutely distinct and the stitching of the various rebel/military uniforms is visible for inspection. Blades of grass, muddy terrain, and jungle brush all yield up their details. Skin tones can veer a bit too heavily toward the super-tan, overly orangish end of the spectrum--especially in earlier scenes, like the one where Sam is sleeping with the admiral's wife--but otherwise color is excellent, with vibrant foliage greens, bright bursts of orange fire, and rich, dense neutrals. Black levels are deep and defining, and contrast is spot-on. My complaints are relegated to a few minor quibbles: video noise sometimes spikes during darker scenes, and some highlights look slightly overexposed. No major distractions whatsoever. This is definitely a good look for Burn Notice.
Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray, Audio Quality
For a made-for-TV movie, a made-for-TV caliber DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, albeit one that's perhaps a bit more active and energetic than most. You won't mistake this mix for Saving Private Ryan, but there are some effectively oomphy explosions that will modestly rock your subwoofer, along with loud gunfire that pops off from all directions and some subtle environmental ambience, like barroom chatter, propeller sounds, and quiet outdoorsy noise. Underscoring the action is a rock/orchestral score that's rather generic and never really rises to the occasion, but serves its purpose and sounds good enough. I don't expect sonic miracles from productions like this--just a solid soundtrack that bolsters the onscreen action well and has no crippling audio slip-ups. In this, The Fall of Sam Axe delivers. Dialogue is somewhat variable--in some scenes the vocals are full and bass-anchored, while in others they seem thinner and more hollow--but conversations are always easily understood. The disc includes optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Fall of Sam Axe is not quite the fall it could've been--this is a rather lighthearted adventure, all things considered--but it's a fun prequel that explores the backstory of one of Burn Notice fans' favorite characters, along with setting up the show's fifth season. (Which premiered in June.) The real promise here is in the possibility that we might see more Burn Notice on Blu-ray in the future, and I'm sure the sales of The Fall of Sam Axe will play no small role in that decision. If you're a fan, do your part!
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Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray Detailed - May 11, 2011
Fox Home Entertainment has detailed the Blu-ray release of Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, a feature-length adventure that follows Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) into the jungles of South America on his final mission as a Navy Seal. The Blu-ray edition, due on July ...
Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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