Empire State Blu-ray Review
In 1982, the robbery of an armored car company made headlines and national news as being the largest cash theft in history up to that point. And it was all because of a police squad reject’s big mouth.
Chris Potamitis (Liam Hemsworth, who plays Gale Hawthorne in the HUNGER GAMES trilogy) loves his family and thinks a job on the force will get them out of any financial hardships they—specifically, patriarch Tommy (Paul Ben-Victor, better known as Spiros Vondas on THE WIRE)—have gotten into it. But when an arrest from years prior turns up and he’s refused the job, he’s left with few options.
One of those options lands him a security guard position at the aforementioned armored car company. On a tour of the grounds, one of Chris’ superiors takes him past the security system (password: 1234) and through a small, unclean room. Past that sits $25 million guarded only by a deaf dog named Barney. One afternoon, the place is knocked off and Chris’ partner is killed, two actions that give him an immediate demotion behind a set of monitors. That’s where his best friend Eddie (Michael Angarano, Kevin Smith’s RED STATE) comes in and, as a result, so does a detective named James Ransome (Dwayne Johnson, whose most recent efforts were Michael Bay’s PAIN AND GAIN and the sequel G.I. JOE: RETALIATION).
EMPIRE STATE (originally titled THE SENTRY KEEP) is written by Adam Mazer (HBO’s YOU DON’T KNOW JACK, 2007’s BREACH) and directed by Dito Montiel (2008’s A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS, 2011’s THE SON OF NO ONE). Despite the absence of Channing Tatum (who must have smelled the odor of direct-to-video), the movie is clearly a Dito Montiel movie. But mean mugs, street toughness and constant “f-bombs” don’t make for an entertaining watch, especially if we have an obnoxious lead to root for.
Neither does the barrage of subgenre clichés: the tightknit group of friends, the “easy” scam for quick cash, the assembling of the team, the shootouts, the betrayals, the chase for the culprits, and so on. It’s all so familiar that we can almost predict when all of these will pop up.
Montiel, who set A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS partly in the ‘80s, thinks that using a similar setting, having COOLEY HIGH play at a local movie theater (even though it was a ‘70s movie that probably didn’t have a seven-year run) and wielding the “based on a true story” stamp will differentiate his effort from the others. But it doesn’t. EMPIRE STATE is just another heist-gone-wrong movie by just another visionless director who thinks his take should somehow stand out from the rest.
EMPIRE STATE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong throughout, both in the New York streets and the car company.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio is very strong, especially during shootouts and when the soundtrack kicks in.
Director’s commentary with Dito Montiel: Montiel offers a pretty easygoing track that mostly focuses on the scene that’s playing.
Deleted Scenes: There are three here: “Parked by the River,” “On the Job” and “Night Out.”
Creating an Empire: Behind the Scenes with Cast/Crew Interviews (10:28): Montiel, the real Chris Potamitis, actor Michael Angarano, actor Dwayne Johnson, and more sit down to discuss the story, cast and more.
Anatomy of a Heist: The Mastermind Behind the Robbery (15:23): Potamitis offers a personal account of being “at the wrong place at the right time” and how his nosiness led to the heist.
Also included is UltraViolet.