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A petty robbery spirals into a tense hostage situation after three gunmen hold up a diner that's a front for the mob.
For more about Pawn and the Pawn Blu-ray release, see Pawn Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Chiklis, Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, Common, Sean Faris, Marton Csokas
Director: David A. Armstrong
» See full cast & crew
Pawn Blu-ray Review
Stop and check first or go ahead and mate this title to your collection?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 22, 2013
Pawn feels fairly representative of a current trend in movies, smaller pictures with fairly big, or at least recognizable, star power, little budget, and an honest go at real storytelling, unique structural shaping, and general plot originality and intensity in a picture that's made for significantly less than some stars earn for a few minutes of screen time in the biggest Summer blockbusters. Many of them don't succeed, though; sometimes, the plot's just too convoluted for the film's -- and the audience's -- own good, sometimes the story just isn't all that interesting, or the small budget doesn't offer the ability to work in even the most modest of scopes. Pawn largely nails the formula, however, telling a rather fast-paced tale with plenty of honest twists and turns. It's populated by several name actors who are perhaps a little beyond their prime but who still bring good performances to the picture, and most importantly, it's largely engaging from start to finish, using its limited assets -- chiefly, what is mostly a one-location setting -- to its advantage.
A casual night of dining out is about to turn into a nightmare scenario. When a sparsely-populated diner is invaded by a trio of armed thugs, staff and customers alike fear for their lives. The lead criminal, a man called "The Brit" (Michael Chiklis), demands the owner (Stephen Lang) open up the safe he presumes to be full of cash. When it's revealed only a few documents and several rolls of low-value coins are inside, he demands the opening of the real, hidden safe. Unfortunately for him, it's on a timer and cannot be opened until midnight. The men decide to wait around, but the matter is complicated by two unforeseen events. One, a cop (Forest Whitaker) wanders into the diner and quickly suspects something's wrong based on the obvious atmosphere of dread hanging in the place, not to mention the red eyes and the unusual behavior of the patrons. Two, a recently released petty convict named Nick (Sean Faris) finds himself in the diner's bathroom when the robbery first goes down. Ultimately, Nick is forced to become the go-between for the robbers and the police negotiator (Common) outside. As the night drags on, the truths and motives behind the robbery are slowly revealed.
While Pawn certainly isn't the cream of its genre crop -- it's not the "hostage negotiation" movie that is The Negotiator and it can't create the same hostage/hostage taker dynamics found in something like Die Hard or even the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Past Tense" -- it still engenders a real sense of dramatic satisfaction considering both the verbal and physical intensity that defines most every scene in the film. While the opening minutes feel a little dumbed down in what amounts to the film's least engaging sequence that's completely absent the tension the filmmakers intended due to a disappointing transparency -- even as it begins with the least amount of information available to the audience -- subsequent scenes yield greater thrills and dangers, shaped both by strong cast and character dynamics as well as an honest stream of genuine plot twists that come frequently and further build the story by shedding more light on the people involved and the hows and whys behind the bloody situation. In the end, it all amounts to a fairly routine but structurally complex web of whodunit and why, but the good, twisty, bloody, highly intense lead up to the final showdown is worth the price of admission.
As the film's canvas is consistently repainted with new information, the revolving cast dynamics never take a hit thanks to some impressive performances from the film's star-studded cast. Michael Chiklis commands the screen in each of his scenes -- which amounts to the majority of the picture -- as a tough, no-nonsense sort, a fairly generic character in reality but one that the veteran actor nevertheless handles with impressive intensity and a real sense of inhumanity and villainy. He seems frighteningly comfortable wielding his sawed-off double-barrel shotgun, and he does so with an authority that's necessary to determine the course of action -- and the fate of all the lives -- within the diner. The remainder of the cast is strong, though audiences looking to see fan favorites Whitaker and Ray Liotta absorb a significant amount of screen time will walk away disappointed. However, Sean Faris earns quite a bit of love from the camera as one of the film's chief protagonists, a duty he carries out nicely, even if his character is the weakest of the primaries, one born of cliché (reformed criminal with a pregnant girlfriend walking the straight and narrow, forced back into the middle of a world he left behind) and never able to escape its clutches. Technically, Pawn proves a smooth, easy flowing and well-paced picture; Director David A. Armstrong, a veteran Cinematographer whose body of work includes the Saw franchise, shows good proficiency and maneuvers the camera to accentuate the story and the characters rather than define them.
Pawn Blu-ray, Video Quality
Pawn features a rather standard Blu-ray transfer for titles shot on digital. And that's a good thing. Anchor Bay's high definition presentation does show the rather common glossiness and flatness associated with digital content, but it also delivers some amazing details and balanced colors. The image is home to top-notch digital clarity and detailing. Few shots look in any way soft, leaving the vast majority to showcase exceptional texturing on faces and clothes, not to mention little odds and ends around the diner, both at tables and booths and around the counter and kitchen area. Most of the action outside takes place under the cover of darkness, illuminated largely by street lamps and flashing police lights. Even here, the clarity and razor detailing are evident. The color palette is fine, very well balanced under the film's primary lighting conditions, again in the brighter diner and outside on the darker street. Black levels are largely faultless, and flesh tones perhaps only a shade paler than one might expect. There are no major bouts of banding, only light noise, and no unsightly blocking. This is a very strong presentation from Anchor Bay.
Pawn Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Pawn delivers a basic, proficient, few-thrills Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Music plays with a rather big stage presence to start, featuring acceptable clarity and stage-wide presence, supported by a robust low end that's heavy and hard-hitting but not too rattly. The track also works in some scattered supportive sound effects and ambience that play clearly around the stage, with good positioning and natural tone. Whether a ringing telephone, police sirens blaring in the background, radio chatter, a yapping dog, or a dinging doorbell, the film's various environmental sound effects play nicely enough. For the most part, however, this is a straightforward dialogue presentation. The spoken word comes through clearly and with no discernible sonic issues from the center channel. The track is proficient in every way, not a memorable listen but one that enjoys the sort of basic high end lossless functionality listeners demand.
Pawn Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Pawn contains only one supplement. 'Pawn:' Behind the Scenes (HD, 23:09) introduces audiences to the plot and characters and moves on to examine the script, the cast and performances, Michael Chiklis' work as producer, David A. Armstrong's direction, and more. A DVD copy of the film is also included.
Pawn Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Pawn isn't memorable cinema, but it's a quality little low-budget entertainer that keeps the audience guessing, the twists coming frequently -- as early as less than twenty minutes in -- and the action/drama quotient at exactly the right level. It features a good cast including two strong lead performances from Michael Chiklis and Sean Faris. Ray Liotta and Forest Whitaker appear in limited spurts. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release contains only one supplement but does offer up strong video and audio. It's not a movie with significant replay value, but it's also a bit better than a lazy day rental. Worth a purchase if, and when, it goes on sale for a can't-miss price.
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Pawn Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Pawn Blu-ray - February 11, 2013
Anchor Bay Entertainment has officially announced the Blu-ray release of Pawn, the directorial debut of cinematographer David A. Armstrong (the Saw films). The new thriller reunites Forest Whitaker and Michael Chiklis for the first time since The Shield, co-stars ...
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