As midnight closes in one, a late night city diner is suddenly held up
by a trio of British thugs. Led by “The Brit” Derrick (Michael Chiklis
doing his best Cockney impersonation), initially they seem to just be
after some quick and easy cash, but it soon becomes apparent that this
unassuming little diner may be housing something a whole lot more
valuable than just patrons wallets and watches.
After demanding that the owner (Stephen Lang) open the diner’s safe,
Derrick reveals knowledge of a second hidden safe that, unbeknownst to
his accomplices, contains a hard drive with some delicate information
stored upon it. Things are complicated once it’s revealed that although
there is indeed a second safe, it’s on a time lock and cannot be
released until the stroke of midnight; forced to continue the assault on
the diner until the lock is released, the motivations of key characters
are slowly revealed via flashbacks and revisiting the same scenes from
The cast also includes Forrest Whitaker as a police officer who finds
himself in the wrong place at the wrong time (Or does he?), Ray Liotta
as an enforcer with ambiguous allegiances, Machiavellian police officer
Barnes (Martin Csokas), Rapper Common as a police negotiator and Sean
Faris as recently released car thief Nick, who find himself trapped in
the bathroom when the hold-up takes place.
Helmed by first time director - and highly regarded cinematographer -
David A. Armstrong, Pawn isn’t the most auspicious of debuts but
serves as a competent, if slightly needlessly over-stylised crime
For the most part the cast performs quite well, with only Common’s
performance and Derrick’s lines seemingly being cribbed wholesale from “Lock,
Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” being the main sticking points.
Liotta and Whitaker’s performances are as dependable as always, and
Faris is proficient in eliciting empathy for his character; some of the
bigger names could be considered to be slightly underused, particularly
Nikki Reed’s character, but by far it is Chiklis’ vicious Derrick that
serves as the lynch pin that holds the entire cast together, eclipsing
many of the weaker points with his commanding presence.
The film’s main drawcard is its unconventional narrative; the story for
Pawn is relatively straightforward but the way it’s presented can be
a little disorienting. The non-linearity of the story can be dismissed
as a blatant effort of making the plot appear more intelligent and
convoluted than it actually is, but for the most part it’s pulled off
with a deft hand.
The multiple plot strands slowly start to form a cohesive whole in a
measured display of expositional restraint, with a consistent
undermining of previous assumptions keeping the audience on its toes.
Sure, some of the characters conform to preconceived archetypes,
particularly Nick, but they’re imbued with a humanity that serves to
create an emphatic bond, whether it’s sympathy or dislike. Far from the
strongest entry in the genre, Pawn still manages to stand out
from a glut of similar films due to some commanding performances and its
engaging slow reveal of the plot.
has a nice little transfer that highlights fine detail superbly without
sacrificing any sharpness of image or compromise in colour balance.
Textures visually pop, with hair, skin detail and clothing fibres
resplendent in their detail and black levels are suitably inky. The
colour palette has a muted aesthetic that translates well to the film
noir setting; there’s no evidence of banding and only a few notable
instances of very light image noise.
Audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and is robust enough to
competently support the visuals. Channels are clearly delineated and the
soundtrack is used to create suitable impact; dialogue is crisp, clean
and consistent with its sound levels.
Overall Pawn has an extremely proficient transfer that maintains
the high quality of Anchor Bay’s releases.
There is only one additional feature on this release, a fairly
comprehensive “Making-Of” that covers the usual ground of character and
plot motivations and what attracted the cast to the project as well as
Michael Chiklis’ experiences producing his first feature. Although
nothing groundbreaking, it’s an enjoyable featurette that serves as a
nice accompaniment to the film.
List of features:
Behind the Scenes (23:09)
For some reason Pawn seems to have copped quite the sledging in regards
to reviews, which is surprising as I found it to be a tightly wound and
engaging little thriller, maybe nothing particularly unique or mind
blowing but certainly more than worthy of my time.
Ironically, the film’s strongest point can also be considered its
greatest flaw, with the disjointed narrative as likely to deter viewers
as it is to engage them. Although the finished product is a fairly
routine “whodunit”, the drip-feeding of information and genuinely
surprising twists raises Pawn above the comparatively mediocre
attempts that the film has inexplicably been lumped in with.