Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: "Pawn" a Game of Changes

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 29 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Pawn (2013)
Running time: 88 minutes (1 hour, 28 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, language and brief drug content
DIRECTOR: David A. Armstrong
WRITER: Jay Anthony White
PRODUCERS: Michael Becker, Michael Chiklis, Brad Luff, and Jeff Most
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Keith Dunkerley (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Jordan Goldman and Danny Saphire
COMPOSER: Jacob Yoffee


Starring: Michael Chiklis, Common, Marton Csokas, Sean Faris, Stephen Lang, Ray Liotta, Nikki Reed, Max Beesley, Jonathan Bennett, Forest Whitaker, Jessica Szohr, Ronald Guttman, Jordan Belfi, and Cameron Denny

Pawn is a 2013 crime thriller and drama. The independent film focuses on a petty robbery that turns into a tense hostage situation after three gunmen hold up a diner.

Pawn is mostly set in Be Brite Diner, an all-night diner (apparently located somewhere in Connecticut). Will Tompkins (Forest Whitaker), a police officer, walks in on a robbery in progress at the diner. Derrick (Michael Chiklis) and his crew, Billy (Max Beesley) and Nigel (Cameron Denny), want the contents of the diner’s safe.

Police and SWAT surround Be Brite. Nicholas “Nick” Davenport (Sean Faris), a recently paroled felon, finds himself caught in the middle, while his pregnant wife, Amanda (Nikki Reed), finds herself facing the “Man in the Suit” (Ray Liotta). Jeff Porter (Common), the hostage negotiator, isn’t sure whom he can trust… on either side of the situation. The big question is not only what happens next, but also what happened just before the robbery began? One extremely intense hostage situation is about to start taking some shocking twists.

The director of Pawn, David A. Armstrong, was the cinematographer on the Saw horror films, from the original to Saw VI. Like the Saw franchise, Pawn is filled with twists and turns and with the kinds of characters that always make twists and turns against their fellow characters. The film also has a non-linear narrative intended to make the viewer chase plots and subplots from one revelation to another. I never got tired of it because these revelations were sometimes delightful clarifications or like amusing sleights-of-hand. Pawn is determined to make you admit that you don’t know what you don’t know, and what you might actually know comes with an exception.

Pawn’s glaring problem is its low-budget and relatively short runtime. Pawn really looks like a movie made on the cheap. While there is nothing that the viewer can do about that (and nor are the film’s finances my business), Pawn, as written by Jay Anthony White, is an ambitious crime film, told across a sprawling landscape of characters, conflicts, and motivations. As director, it seems as if Armstrong is forced to keep the characters, plot, and setting confined to what amounts to a film production box, while Pawn wants to be wide open and loud, with some big action scenes.

Still, Armstrong turns in an engaging crime thriller and character drama in Pawn, with the help of some good performances. Common, the rapper and actor, has big, expressive eyes, and I love the way he uses them to convey being surprised and confused and especially to suggest his mistrust of some of the other characters. Pawn is also a reunion, of sorts, of Michael Chiklis and Forest Whitaker, who shared the small screen on the acclaimed television series, “The Shield.” When Chiklis and Whitaker’s characters are in proximity to one another, there is indeed some edgy tension and suspense, but there isn’t really that much of them together.

Pawn may not be a great crime film, but it is certainly a surprisingly compelling movie and is really fun to watch. Every time a character makes a move in this film, he changes this chess game of crooks that is the heart of Pawn. And Pawn is certainly a game of crooks and crime worth watching.

6 of 10

Monday, April 22, 2013

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