April 21, 2013

Pawn is a direct-to-video thriller starring Forest Whitaker, Michael Chiklis (using a British accent), Ray Liotta, and a whole bunch of other people you may or may not recognize. (I was curious to see how Jessica Szohr, the Brooklynite from Gossip Girl, did as a waitress. Sadly, it was a generic part.) It’s available on Tuesday and runs an hour and a half.

The premise involves a robbery at an all-night diner that quickly spirals out of control into a hostage situation. The movie flashes back to show how the customers and staff came to be at this location, in order to rachet up tension for what will finally happen, which also involves corruption and mob money. Since there are three workers, seven customers, and three criminals (plus additional extras), there are a lot of threads, plus every time switch involves another double-cross or sometimes a “what if” showing what might happen if someone takes a particular action.

That structure provides a small amount of replay value, as a viewer may want to put the pieces together again once he knows all the twists, particularly the unbelievable ones. I had a certain curiosity to see what would happen next, but otherwise, this is a generic action film that runs purely on adrenaline and various shootings. The film is a puzzle, not something with emotion or heart (although there’s a cliched pregnant wife in danger). It’s not something you seek out for the performances, either; instead, it’s the kind of movie that used to make a good rental when the blockbuster you wanted to see was already taken. One nice touch: the ending credits shows faces with names, a big help in a film with such a large cast.

The Blu-ray comes with a DVD copy as well. Both have the same single special feature, a 23-minute “behind the scenes” featurette in which many of the cast members — including Sean Faris, Nikki Reed, Stephen Lang, Ron Guttman, and Common — review their characters and praise the director, David Armstrong. (The studio provided a review copy.)

There’s a trailer online, but I think it gives too much away, so instead, here’s a scene with a tense phone call:

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