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A drama centered on two childhood friends who plan to rob an armored car depository, and the NYPD officer who stands in their way.
For more about Empire State and the Empire State Blu-ray release, see Empire State Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 29, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Emma Roberts, Liam Hemsworth, Dwayne Johnson, Nikki Reed, James Ransone, Michael Angarano
Director: Dito Montiel
» See full cast & crew
Empire State Blu-ray Review
Truth would have been better than this fiction.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 29, 2013
Most of us live by a more or less intact moral code where we intuitively understand what's wrong and what's right, choosing to do right either because we're intrinsically predisposed to do so, or perhaps because we fear getting caught if we don't. Of course as with many codes, things can get elastic from time to time. Who hasn't pushed their driving speed to that "nine you're fine" limit? And few would probably lose much sleep or suffer many pangs of a guilty conscience should they discover they had somehow ended up with a pen—or several—from their office supplies. But here's a more serious question, one that some may want to peruse in their most honest, introspective moments. What would you do if your family were in desperate financial straits, and your job was to guard untold millions of dollars where you knew that not only did no one know how much money was actually lying around, you were also absolutely certain that your bosses were skimming huge amounts off the top anyway? That's the moral dilemma facing Chris Potamitis (Liam Hemsworth) in the 2013 heist drama Empire State, based on what was in its day an infamous (and record breaking) theft of some $8,000,000 from an armored car company. The actual facts of the case are decidedly more mundane—and mendacious—than Adam Mazer's screenplay make them out to be. In this fanciful revisionist history, Potamitis is basically a nice guy who's one moment of weakness—smoking some pot at a rock concert—has prevented him from reaching his life's dream, becoming a New York City policeman. Instead he's an unwilling hostage on the mean streets of a Greek neighborhood in New York, surrounded by trash talking neighbors and confronted by a squalid environment from which he desperately wants to escape. When Potamitis secures a job as a guard at an armored car company, he is initially excited that he at least gets to carry a gun—at least until he and his middle aged partner are accosted by two thieves and Potamitis finds himself unable to respond quickly enough to keep his partner from being killed by the thugs. His slimy bosses then decide Potamitis would be better as a night watchman inside the actual premises of the company, a place where a rather unlikely room of cash bags is just sitting there virtually screaming to be stolen.
Empire State actually begins on a promising note, with honest to goodness archival news footage of several reporters (including an impossibly young Tom Brokaw) talking about the theft. We're then shown cop James Ransome (Dwayne Johnson) interviewing some unseen guy named Eddie, asking where both Chris and the money are. And so immediately we're aware that a real life robbery of some magnitude had actually happened and that perhaps we're going to get the inside scoop about it. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead of a Scorsese-esque investigation of desperate people doing stupid things, we get stupid people doing desperate things, and the result is a rather uninvolving experience.
The chief fault here may simply be in the casting of Hemsworth. The guy is obviously a good looking matinee idol type, and as such audiences' sympathies are going to be with him. The screenplay does nothing to subvert that initial impression, positing Potamitis as an upright, decent and stalwart young man who's facing a life of menial jobs due to one unthinking mistake, surrounded by a gaggle of unseemly types, including his manic best friend Eddie (Michael Angarano). Chris has a typically (some might say stereotypically) supportive family, including a put upon mother (Sharon Angela) and a hapless father (Paul Ben-Victor) who himself works a menial job at a local bar owned by a slimy Greek named Spyro (Chris Diamantopoulos). When a rather baffling showdown at the bar between Chris and Spyro leads to his father being fired after ten years, Chris is increasingly devastated. Later, when he discovers his bosses are not paying the proceeds of a life insurance policy on his dead former partner to the partner's widow and child, he becomes determined to set things right—his way.
Chris initially manages to get a cash bag containing $25,000 out of the room without the security cameras catching any of the action, and he delivers a sizable pile to the widow of his former partner. Things might have ended there and Chris probably would have been seen as a misguided but basically noble type who most likely did the wrong thing for the right reason. Unfortunately, Chris spills the beans to Eddie, who becomes obsessed with really robbing the place. Eddie also makes the mistake of drawing in two of Spyro's henchmen, to the point that competing agendas start to threaten to reveal the plot before it's been fully hatched. That said, Chris and Eddie are not exactly models of decorum, either with regard to what's already been stolen or what's to come.
Empire State succeeds in some small but effective ways. Director Dito Montiel has an excellent eye for the fetid streets of New York's ethnic neighborhoods, aggregations of people who scream epithets at each other while dodging enormous mounds of garbage that have been piled up, cluttering sidewalks and alleyways alike. And he elicits an really remarkable performance from Angarano, who makes Eddie a dodging, weaving, tic filled guy on the make. In fact Angarano easily overpowers both Hemsworth and Johnson, and the film might have actually been a lot better had it focused on him rather than the character of Chris. Second billed Emma Roberts is basically unseen for the bulk of the film, consigned to just a couple of scenes as a putative love interest for Chris whose part is probably lying around on the cutting room floor. As is so often the case, the film twists what really happened into a fanciful but ultimately unbelievable escapade. The real Chris Potamitis was found sunning himself by a pool in Puerto Rico. In an ironic twist of fate, the film's Potamitis never makes it out the neighborhood he sought so desperately to escape.
Empire State Blu-ray, Video Quality
Empire State is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.39:1. This digitally shot feature looks perfectly serviceable but just a bit unremarkable some of the time. Director Dito Montiel and cinematographer Dana Gonzales do very well with some of the location work, especially the teeming streets of claustrophobic neighborhoods. Things are a bit less striking in a lot of the interior scenes, where contrast is a little underwhelming at times and there simply isn't a lot of visual pop. Colors look very accurate if not oversaturated. As befits its source, the image is crisp and well defined, with excellent fine detail. There are no issues with aliasing or other compression artifacts despite the repeated use of busy New York skylines.
Empire State Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Empire State's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 may be a bit surprisingly restrained for some who will come to this outing based on Dwayne Johnson's participation and expect an LFE-fest. There are a couple of action set pieces here where there is in fact LFE and really well done surround activity, but a lot of this film is quieter dialogue moments which simply don't offer a lot of opportunity for overly active sonics. That said, there's good attention to detail here, with quite a bit of ambient environmental effects, including the omnipresent sounds of busy New York backgrounds. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range gets a couple of significant workouts when looking at the film as a whole.
Empire State Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Empire State Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Empire State would seem to have everything going for it, including being based on a fascinating true story and a really interesting and eclectic cast. But things just never take off here, despite some fitfully engaging elements. The feel of eighties New York is quite resonant here, and along with Angarano's work, is the most distinctive thing about what is otherwise a rather unexpectedly pedestrian enterprise. This Blu-ray does offer very good looking video and sounding audio.
Empire State Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: September 3-10 - September 3, 2013
For the week of September 3rd, Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment are releasing Now You See Me, Louis Leterrier's surprise hit about bank-robbing magicians. Other titles include Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem adaptation, the final season of Starz's Spartacus, ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: Empire State - August 31, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Lionsgate Films are offering two members a chance to win a copy of Empire State. This film stars Liam Hemsworth and Dwayne Johnson and recounts the true story of what was in its day one of the most daring and largest cash thefts in history. ...
• Empire State Blu-ray - June 19, 2013
Lionsgate Home Entertainment will bring to Blu-ray director Dito Montiel's action drama Empire State (2013), starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Liam Hemsworth, and Emma Roberts. The preliminary release date set by the studio is September 3rd.
» Show more related news posts for Empire State Blu-ray
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