Most helpful critical review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Good acting, boring plot in 'Empire State'
on September 6, 2013
Liam Hemsworth is simply not proving to be the "main event" attraction that film studios are hoping he'd be - at least nowhere the near the heavyweight caliber of his older A-list brother, Chris Hemsworth. The youngest of the Hemsworth brothers has only been in Hollywood for a few short years, but he is struggling to carry films on his own - and might just be overexposing himself. He's had notable roles in The Last Song (with his fiancée Miley Cyrus), The Hunger Games, and The Expendables 2. However, like his role in The Expendables 2, he has proved to be just that - expendable. Since his role in the Stallone-powered action flick, Hemsworth has trickled out two less than entertaining flicks, Love and Honor and Paranoia. Clearly, Liam Hemsworth is best utilized when he's surrounded by top-name actors, like Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, and Harrison Ford - but does the presence of Dwayne Johnson help his newest attempt at a lead actor in the straight-to-video film, Empire State?
Directed by Dito Montiel (The Son of No One), Empire State stars Liam Hemsworth as Chris Potamis, an armored car security guard that helps plot the biggest heist in United States history (when it originally occurred in 1982). Chris applies to be a police officer, but is rejected due to having a prior record, forcing him to seek employment with an armored car company. There, he discovers the company heads don't have an exact count on the millions of dollars in storage, and that they also leave it guarded by minimal security. Chris, and his friend Eddie (Michael Angarano), decide to make a play for the cash. At the same time, a detective, James Ransome (Dwayne Johnson) has been watching Chris, trying to figure out his intentions towards his place of employment. Emma Roberts, Jerry Ferrara, and Michael Rispoli also star in supporting roles.
Empire State loosely follows the events of the 1982 Sentry Armored Car Company robbery, and while the original premise of the story remains, there's definitely a great deal of flare added to this film. As far as the film goes, it features some interesting qualities and some bothersome qualities. First, Liam Hemsworth actually thrives in this role - even though the role calls for an Italian, which he is most certainly not. He tries to do his best Brooklyn accent, impersonating the real life security guard, Christos Potamitis. Unfortunately, this blond haired Australian is severely out of his element in this New York-based bank heist. Hemsworth portrays a likeable character, even though it's difficult to fully realize where the character's heart lies. One minute he's playing Robin Hood by stealing for a family in need and the next he's plotting to steal money for...well, it's never really explained why he's so desperate for money. Chris Potamitis is essentially a character without rhyme or reason - and that's mainly due to poor scripting, not Liam Hemsworth.
The starring roles in this film are extremely out of whack, with Dwayne Johnson - one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, playing second fiddle to Liam Hemsworth. The actor, known to the WWE Universe as the Rock, is at a point in his career when he should be second to no one. He's coming off a heavily hyped main event at Wrestlemania, not to mention a successful first half of 2013 - starring in Snitch, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Pain & Gain, and Fast & Furious 6. True, he shared starring roles in several of those films - but only because they included Mark Wahlberg and Vin Diesel. Regardless, Johnson should be the face and selling-point of every film he's in from here on out. Unfortunately, he is cast in a secondary role in this film, which only briefly allows him to show off his full potential as an actor. One thing is for sure - he absolutely dominates each and every one of his scenes, rising above the generic dialogue and making the best out of a role that he probably regrets taking in the first place.
For a film that has gone straight to video on-demand (VOD) and direct-to-video, it sure does showcase a more than capable and extremely talented cast. Emma Roberts is obviously one of the most recognizable names on the roster, but she's only present for a handful of scenes - many of which are pointless. She's a character that could have easily been written out and it's a crushing blow for her talent to also go by the wayside in this film. Most scenes - as far as the supporting cast goes - are "owned" by the charismatic and overly talkative Michael Angarano. His portrayal of Eddie, Chris' best friend, is completely buried by Empire States' lack of advertisement. And, while his role can be horribly annoying at times (which is the point), it's still an impressively acted part that will go largely unrecognized.
Overall, Empire State can be painfully stale at times - even though the cast is quite an enjoyable ensemble. It's usually a pleasant feature when a film incorporates the real-life newscasts - to help give an authentic, documentary-style feel to it. Sadly, there's very little authenticity present in this flick and that's just one of several deficiencies that held this feature from hitting the big screen. This company "heist" might have been a big deal at the time, but the crime almost seems tame compared to the films out there these days - you know, the ones with attractive villains skimming billions from corporations. Anyway, it's hard not to like this film (mostly due to the presence of Dwayne Johnson), yet it pales in comparison to the majority of every other bank heist film that's ever been made. Still, try to look past this film's shortcomings and give it a whirl. The film isn't up to the standard of most quality Hollywood releases - and as long as you realize that before viewing, you should find it to be at least as entertaining as a made-for-TV movie.