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A betrayed diamond thief teams up with a mob boss to get revenge on his former partner.
For more about Set Up and the Set Up Blu-ray release, see Set Up Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 10, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 1.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Curtis Jackson (I), Ryan Phillippe, Jenna Dewan, Randy Couture, James Remar
Director: Mike Gunther
» See full cast & crew
Set Up Blu-ray Review
Whatchoo lookin' at, Willis?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 10, 2011
If that old adage is true that you see the same people on the way down that you saw on the way up, Bruce Willis might want to be keeping his eyes peeled for Cybill Shepherd, who may well be coming into his view any day now if the rather precipitous decline in his recent film roles is any indication. Willis of course sprang to overnight fame as Shepherd's co-star in Moonlighting and then soon eclipsed the tempestuous actress-model to become a major film star, not exactly being gracious to the woman who had helped foster his career as he made the quantum leap to the big screen. While Willis is generally thought of as a regular guy, snippets of an alleged prickliness have been leaked to the press over the years and some of his recent antics (like the Meat Hat episode on Letterman) have been outright bizarre. Willis has also seen a fairly noticeable degradation in the quality of his film projects of late as well. Though he still can do great work in ensemble pieces like Sin City, The Expendables or Red, his days as a star who could guarantee an opening seem to be threatened if not outright moribund. Just looking at some of the films Willis has appeared in over the past few years shows his steady decline from the heady days of Die Hard or even The Sixth Sense, and his slate of upcoming projects doesn't exactly augur well for the actor, what with such less than stellar titles as G.I. Joe: Retaliation. If Haley Joel Osment could see dead careers, he might be catching glimpses of a spectral Willis just starting to become visible on the astral plane. Willis does another one of his patented cameo roles in Set Up, a new Blu-ray release which seems to be a straight to video effort that may have at one point been planned for a theatrical release (there's precious little information available online about this production, usually a telling clue that a film has been abandoned by either its studio or its distributor).
How incompetent is Set Up? Let me count the ways. Never mind, it's impossible to count to infinity, isn't it? Let's just sample a cursory list of the idiocies offered in this film. First and foremost, who is about to buy Ryan Philippe as a tougher than nails gang member, replete with tattoos? Whatever illusion may have been created by Philippe's obvious acting chops are completely blown to smithereens when he has a bedroom scene and is shirtless and his scrawny upper arms come into view. Not exactly gang material biceps. Even more laughable is Willis' character's name. Willis portrays a nefarious crime overlord who is nonetheless kind of cool, in that best Willis fashion. This relentless killer's moniker? Mr. Biggs. Mr. Biggs! Then there's the fact that the main hero of the film, played by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, marauds through large swaths of various gangland residences brandishing a gun, never of course firing the damned thing, and just as certainly never even being mildly threatened by any of the bad guys. On a more technical level we get through huge amounts of the film before suddenly Jackson is giving us first person narration that just kind of pops up out of nowhere.
The film wants to be a down and dirty, gritty crime thriller that has several elements of backstabbing, revenge and shifting alliances. What it ends up being is a silly jumble that manages to evoke virtually every crime thriller cliché in the book while at the same time managing to muck up even those tried and true approaches. While co-writer/director Mike Gunther has a fine eye for staging and the film looks gorgeous, from a plot and character standpoint it's rarely much more than laughable. This was part of a big production deal for Jackson's production company, but if the erstwhile rapper thought something like this was going to parlay his music career into big screen stardom, he'd better not give up his day job, as the saying goes. He's not bad in the film; it's the film that's bad, and as a result even seasoned pros like Willis come off like rank amateurs.
Set Up tries to cram too many competing elements into its paper thin premise. We start out with a diamond heist with a betrayal. That leads to Jackson trying to get his share of the loot while simultaneously attempting to avenge the death of a friend. Mix in Philippe's jailed father (James Remar in a completely wasted opportunity), Willis as a crime boss with another betrayal on his hands, and a bunch of vicious Russian mobsters running around trying to dispatch everyone in sight and it's simply too much. Jackson's visits to a local church where he receives cursory spiritual guidance from an understanding holy man are about the only scenes where guns aren't brandished or some sort of violence isn't erupting.
The film tries mightily to get to a point where the title is self-reflexive enough to be ironic, but perhaps because Jackson is trying to recast himself as a basically nice guy, the climax is considerably anti-climactic and the film just kind of peters out, as if it had any momentum to begin with. About the only notable set up this film has to offer is the one that might lure paying audiences to see it.
Set Up Blu-ray, Video Quality
Whatever you might think of Set Up as a film (and it should be fairly obvious by now I at least didn't think much of it), the film's AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.39:1 offers very little to complain about. The film is cast in that typical ice cold blue-gray that seems to be de rigeur for hardbitten crime thrillers over the past few years, but the very deliberate filtering robs the image of surprisingly little fine detail. There is noticeable crush in several dark scenes, and while trying to be as politically correct as possible, that means Jackson's face and body frequently disappears into the dusky background. There is also some frighteningly bad aliasing early in the film on a close-up of a chain link fence, as well as a couple of times later, but those are the only horrible compression artifacts to report. Otherwise this is an incredibly sharp looking film, with great shots of Grand Rapids filling in for Detroit (stock footage is used as establishing shots for the Motor City). Fine detail is more than abundant and while colors are intentionally skewed toward the blue-gray end of the spectrum, the film boasts nicely saturated hues and an overall impressive look.
Set Up Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Do you like lots of loud gunfire and propulsive sound effects darting around the surround channels. Ignore the rest of Set Up then (that's an official mental health advisory in case you were wondering), and just sit back and revel in the bombastic lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix with which the film is provided. LFE bursts through the subwoofer every time shots are fired (which is quite often), and a number of extremely violent interchanges also means that thumps, whacks, cracks and other sounds of mayhem are very artfully placed around the soundfield. Dialogue is very well handled and prioritized appropriately. Fidelity is very strong on this track and perhaps most surprisingly there's a rather wide dynamic range which also sounds great throughout the film.
Set Up Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Set Up Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Set Up is just a mess, pretty much from start to finish. There's a reason why this film doesn't seem to have actually been granted much of a theatrical release, if indeed it ever had one at all (that lack of information online is a very telling clue). The good news, if there is any, is that Gunther has a sure eye for staging and the film is at least thankfully brief. It does look and sound fantastic, but it's a lot of sound and visual fury signifying nothing. Skip it.
Set Up: Other Editions
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Set Up Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Set Up Blu-ray (Updated) - August 9, 2011
Lionsgate has announced that it will premiere Set Up, a new crime flick starring Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and Bruce Willis, on Blu-ray on September 20th. Ryan Phillippe and UFC fighter turned action star Randy Couture also star. A SRP of $24.99 has been set.
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