Cops and robbers is a genre that almost goes into very familiar territory whenever a film gets released. Director David Armstrong’s “Pawn” is really no different, and yet it tries something new with some very familiar twists and turns. It’s screenplay starts off very simple as a cop (Forest Whitaker) walks into a 24-hour diner to have his usual cup of joe. What happens is totally unexpected when a gang of thugs led by a “Brit” (Michael Chiklis) have taken over the diner to get the contents of the place’s safe. Of course, we all can tell where the plot is about to go, as a stand off between the police and the hostage-takers ensue. But this is not a simple robbery as things are about to get much more complicated for the diner’s patrons, this includes an ex-con (Sean Faris) as they are about to discover that there is more at stake here.
First off, “Pawn” is an effective low-budget film. It has its own share of issues, but it manages to keep things together and focused. The twists and turns it presents are enough to engage the viewer as the main characters are developed through the use of occasional flashbacks, revelations were carefully placed within its screenplay, and it does serve up some genuine tension. Cops and robbers almost have a common staple around them; crooked cops, a cover-up, a few wannabe masterminds and a ‘pawn’, and they all serve up to build on suspense and tension. It is a familiar deal, but the direction was wise enough to structure the story with a careful hand in execution.
Low budget films often have several obstacles with the rendition of its production values, and this is an area where I think that the film would’ve benefited if it had a larger budget. I felt that the production designs felt a little too bland, limited and a even a little shaky at times. There weren’t that many elements to really enthrall its viewer, it feels a little too plain. Sure, there were several scenes that stood out, and I liked the way that its premise did not require any use of CGI special effects and for awhile, it managed to generate a feeling of claustrophobia. The effects were done simply with the minimal use of practical effects and one would do well to remember that this is a low-budget flick.
Michael Chiklis (who also co-produces) stood out as the “Brit”. His performance was quite good as the main antagonist. Fans of “The Shield” would recognize his familiar swagger and flair, and the man certainly does a great British accent (or is he British?). Sean Faris’ performance sadly is a little lukewarm as he severely demonstrates his limited acting skills. Not sure, his ‘ex-con with a new heart’ bit felt a little too easy and I am afraid that he did not sell his role. Common plays Jeff Porter the negotiator and his role felt like a mild convenience to the plot; he lacked the necessary presence to really give his character the weight to drive its emotions. Marton Csokas played a convincing crooked cop but unfortunately, his was a very limited screen time. I also have an issue that Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, Stephen Lang and Ronald Guttman weren’t well-used into the plot. I mean, these are actors with high caliber and they had such small roles? I think that may have been a bad move.
The film is kind of brisk up to a point, suspenseful at times and the plot had enough strong points that I think fans of the crime genre would find it enjoyable. I think this is a worthy watch even if it really isn’t anything special. Chiklis did a fine job as the “Brit”, and he is supported with some quality performances from the actors that had limited roles. The script was strong enough to sell its twists and surprises, though admittedly I wished it had a stronger ending. I know it was a story about ‘changing for the better’ but it felt somehow anti-climactic. Still, this would be a good Rental on a lazy evening. It is good as far as low-budget thrillers go. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Special Thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment and Amazon.com for sending me a screener copy.
PAWN I had no idea this movie was even coming out until it was out. That is a very weird thing given who is in it and the type of movie it is. I love the actors here and this kind of flick is one of my favorites. Director David Armstrong and writer Jay White did an excellent job with this film as I was into it the entire time. I am really glad I got the opportunity to check this flick out. The … more
I have to say this was a very good movie and I should not have been surprised. Looking at the cast and even the synopsis will tell you all you need to know. This was a great independent low budget flick that did not disappoint. I have always been a fan of these types of movies and this one has some cool twists and turns in it. A cop walks into a dinner and it just so happens a robbery is going on. That ladies and gentlemen is how I am going to leave you.