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Pawn (Blu-ray + DVD)
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Give an actor a good role and he'll do it for "nothing".

That axiom certainly applies to the cast of PAWN, a 2013 thriller, now available in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Shot in fifteen days, primarily on a single set and location, PAWN is a low budget tense drama, filled with unexpected plot twists, that features not inexpensive actors like Michael Chiklis, Stephen Lang, Ray Liotta, Nikki Reed, Sean Faris and Forest Whitaker in memorable key roles.

To reveal much about the plot would lead to spoilers, so let's just say that it revolves around the hold-up of an all-night diner that goes terribly wrong. Indeed, just when you think that you've got everything figured out, the scene shifts backward or forward in time, and you are, once again, left wondering. PAWN, directed by David A. Armstrong from Jay Anthony White's well-crafted screenplay, is one of those deliciously plotted movies, like THE USUAL SUSPECTS, that demands a second viewing.

Chiklis, who co-produced the picture, is particularly powerful as the leader of the hold-up crew. Also making a strong impression is Stephen Lang, playing the diner's manager and, in a relatively brief role, Liotta, who has a mesmerizing metaphoric moment.

Suggestion: If you can avoid watching the trailer for PAWN before seeing the movie, do so. Like so many trailers these days, this one reveals too much of the plot and, as previously suggested, that can spoil the enjoyment of the picture itself.

The Blu-Ray/DVD contains a "Making of" featurette.

© Michael B. Druxman
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 19, 2013
Format: DVDVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I admit when I first read the cover of this movie, I did not think much. It was an "open" title PAWN. And it had Forest Whitaker and Michael Chiklis in it, so I said lets try it.

I was VERY wrong on questioning the movie!

I will not spoil the movie. In my opinion even the trailer gives too much away. I will say it deals with a crime at an all night dinner, and the actions that occur right before, during and after the robbery.

I cannot stress enough how I got into this movie! It's one of those movies where you don't look at the time during it, but when it's over you say "hey where did the time go?!"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Knowing that Pawn was released directly to DVD, my expectations weren't too high, but the cast looked very solid, so I invested an hour and a half in the movie. I don't regret it a bit. This was a barnburner of a story, with plenty of blood but nothing too gory, and a surprise twist around every corner. Like other nonlinear films, the scenes are shown out of sequence, but unlike some of those films, it's never hopelessly confusing. I didn't have to watch it again to figure out what really happened.

The cast made the story work so well. Michael Chiklis was superb as a vicious gangster holding up a late-night diner (and check out his great British accent). Forest Whitaker is the cop who comes in to play a little chess with the manager. He catches on to the robbers, all hell breaks loose, and the scene suddenly shifts to a hospital room where Ray Liotta is questioning a patient who was in the diner. And in my opinion, this may be Liotta's finest performance since Goodfellas.

What you think you see isn't always what's really happening, which makes Pawn a fun film to watch, with all the twists that are thrown at you. And sometimes it's impossible to separate the good guys from the bad as the body count rises.

Pawn is a fine film with a marvelous cast and some of the most suspenseful action I've seen in a while. Also, don't miss the Behind the Scenes special feature, where the actors talk about their roles. It's worth watching, especially the revelation that the film was shot in only fifteen days.

Rated "R" for violence, brief use of cocaine, and plenty of F-bombs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
PAWN is basically a heist movie that takes place in a small urban diner late one night. A group of thugs take over the diner in what seems to be a simple "bag it and run" operation. It soon becomes apparent that the leader of the group has an agenda different from the men working under him. In the midst of it all is a man named Nick (Sean Faris), a recently released convict seeking to keep his life in order. Nick wants nothing more than to return home to his wife and get on living with his life. However, he soon becomes a pawn involved in a game much larger than any he has ever played.

PAWN features a stellar cast that includes such heavyweights as Nikki Reed, Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, Michael Chiklis, and Stephen Lang. Considering this is an extremely low budget movie filmed in just fifteen days, the cast list is rather impressive.

Part of the plot of the movie is revealed through a series of flashbacks that reveal a different part of the story told from the perspective of a different character (think RASHOMON or VANTAGE POINT). I occasionally enjoy this style of storytelling in movies and I liked how it was used in PAWN. Unfortunately, the device is thrown away about halfway through the movie and the last part of the movie is told in a more linear fashion.

Upon initially watching PAWN, I didn't think I was going to like it. The first few scenes left me disoriented and I wasn't sure what type of movie I was watching; I thought it was going to be a kind of heist movie, but after the first couple of scenes I thought I was watching some trippy time travel flick like DONNIE DARKO. However, once I got further along, I really started to enjoy the movie and began trying to unravel the tangled threads of the story myself. Although there are far better heist movies out there, PAWN is a better movie than I thought it would be and I'm glad I watched it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Pawn" might be a straight-to-DVD thriller, but it boasts a surprisingly strong cast! Among a slew of recognizable faces, you've got Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, Common, Stephen Lang, Ray Liotta, Sean Faris, Nikki Reed, Max Beesley, Marton Csokas, and Jessica Szohr. But I was primarily intrigued by Michael Chiklis taking the film's most prominent role and serving as a producer. I'm a big fan of Chiklis, his Vic Mackey on "The Shield" will go down in my book as one of TV's greatest anti-heroes. And after viewing "Pawn," a relatively low-budget affair, I could see what might have appealed to him. Setting up the classic heist-gone-wrong scenario, the film starts off as a stand-off between cops and robbers with a bounty of hostages caught in between. But director David A. Armstrong and screenwriter Jerome Anthony White clearly have other things on their mind. They want "Pawn" to be a twisty and clever enterprise that leaves the audience guessing about every character's real motivations. As the film progresses, flashbacks start to reveal that things might not be what they seem in this gritty, if flawed, movie.

Chiklis plays a British thug (Why British? Who knows?) who leads a team on a late night heist on a popular midtown diner. Despite the lateness of the hour, the restaurant is packed with an assortment of innocent (and not-so-innocent) victims. When a local cop (Whitaker) enters the premises, the situation goes from bad to worse. But who, as they say, is zooming who? Who on the police force can be trusted? What was the goal of targeting the diner? And can anyone come out of this unscathed? I won't reveal anything relevant to the film's surprises other than to say that Faris quickly becomes the centerpiece of the hostage situation. As an ex-con caught up in the intrigue, is his presence at the diner merely a coincidence? That's a central question that haunts many of the principle characters as "Pawn" progresses.

While "Pawn" positions itself as a twisty and clever thriller, it really isn't as smart as I would have liked. The metaphor of the chess piece is revealed late in the picture, but it's not particularly convincing. As major secrets are uncovered, the connections grew increasingly tenuous or unbelievable. Structured as a narrative puzzle, I felt that I had seen this device used to better effect in other films. The screenplay has a lot of great ideas, but many are left unexplored or go relatively nowhere. I especially liked how one character (Reed) was held and then inexplicably released. She had seen many of the major players involved in a grand conspiracy at that point, but they let her go like it was no big deal. This is also one of those movies that relies on the plot device that there is such organized corruption in the police force and this equates to having murder-for-hire thugs on the payroll. All in all, though, "Pawn" is entertaining. I recommend watching it for the actors (it is better served through rental, though). About 3 1/2 stars, I'll round up for this being a solid enough straight-to-DVD endeavor. KGHarris, 4/13.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2013
Format: DVDVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I expected 'Pawn' to be another braindead, straight-to-dvd cash-in, but was pleasantly surprised! 'Pawn' really is a terse thriller, detailing what initially looks like a simple robbery gone wrong, as it unfolds into a much larger plan through the course of the film. All of the actors bring their A-game and the dialog doesn't offer too much fluff.

At times, the plot seems to get ahead of itself, as some actions don't seem totally natural, and some obvious tells (to the audience) go completely ignored by the characters on screen. Also, Michael Chiklis is forced to deliver a Cockney accent which seems forced into the film to add some flavor. At one point his character uses an 'American' accent and it comes off as Chiklis delivering a fake American accent. Kinda weird, but only a small gripe.

A very competent action/thriller. A great way to spend a Friday night.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this low budget straight-to-DVD movie but I was very pleasantly surprised.

The movie is short - 88 minutes long - and is jam packed with twists and turns. It kept me guessing right up to the very end. Cross, double cross and triple cross.

It has some major talent for such a low budget film - Forest Whitaker, Michael Chiklis, Ray Liotta to name a few. But I especially liked Sean Faris as the poor schmuck caught in the middle of this robbery gone bad.

I was very glad that the movie came with English subtitling for the hearing impaired since I am partially deaf. It also has Spanish subtitles.

If you want to watch a suspenseful, twisty movie, check out "Pawn."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you like a good thriller that really exercises your brain and has a fine cast check out this flick. Although I can see how the average moviegoer would find this overly complex I loved it for that very reason. It reminded me of the complex noir mystery of Dashiell Hammett-Red Harvest. Although it may have too many twists and turns for some to feel contrived it really held my attention.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2013
Big Names which you would think would lead to a better movie. But this movie proved that theory false. I do not get why M.Chiklis had an irish accent? I never really got used to it and found it to be completely strange. The movie is slow paced and the acting is sub par.
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