Empire State (Blu-ray)

November 19, 2013 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

Let’s start with this, Dwayne Johnson is not the star of Empire State. I bring this up first because the ads and bluray case might have you believe otherwise. That makes it no less a good movie, but those expecting a non-stop action film with him as the star might be disappointed. It is, however very worth your time. I was involved throughout the entire running time. The story is set in the 1980’s and involves (at that time) the biggest robbery in the United States. Liam Hemsworth stars as Chris Potamitis. He has dreams of becoming a police officer, but a mark on his record keeps that from happening. He eventually gets a job as a security guard for an armored truck. After the truck gets robbed on one of his stops, his partner gets killed and Chris gets demoted and given a night shift instead. His new position has him sitting in the office keeping an eye on the money as it’s dropped off each night. He discovers how lax the security at the building is and explains to his friend Eddie (Michael Angarano) how easy someone could rob the place. Eddie shows more than enough interest and eventually, Eddie does in fact rob the place. This puts Chris right in the middle of things and eventually he has the cops and F.B.I. On his case. This is where Detective James Ransome (Dwayne Johnson) shows up. He and Chris bond after Chris saves Ransome’s life during an earlier robbery one night. Ransome is quick to tell Chris that if he did have anything to do with the latest robbery that he will take him down. The film generates more than a fair amount of tension. The robberies alone had me on edge and I knew nothing of the true story on which the film is based. There isn’t a lot of time spent on the actual planning of the robbery, but the plan itself is relatively simple. The film has similarities to some of Martin Scorsese’s work. It doesn’t come close to the quality of his films, but the New York setting draws fond memories. A mob angle is also brought up. They are at one time suspected of being involved with the robberies. I also like stories set in the old neighborhood where people hang out on street corners and know each others names. It successfully recreates the 1980’s without overdoing things. There are films that try to recreate previous decades and drown in useless puns and various nods to the era. That doesn’t happen here, instead, we get small touches that add to the setting. The styles are all accurate to the decade as well as the cars.

I was surprised to learn that not only is this a true story, but it takes very few liberties with the facts. The real Chris Potamitis doesn’t look a thing like Hemsworth, but the details of the story remain very accurate. Watching some of the features on this disc helps elaborate on things too. The cast is pretty good here too, but Michael Angarano as Eddie does annoy after a while. I realize the character is sort of written this way, but he did start to bug me after a while with his constant complaining and what not. Hemsworth does a fine job through some of the later moments that require some dramatic depth leave something to be desired. It’s not that he does a bad job, but a more capable actor would’ve made more of an impression. Johnson continues to do fine work here as well. I mentioned at the beginning of my review that he is not the star of the picture, but he does a good job in his supporting role. I don’t know why Empire State didn’t receive a bigger release. The story is intriguing, the action is thrilling and characters are well-defined. I do have a minor complaint. Since the story is based on facts, it also follows the real life conclusion. The problem here is that it doesn’t entirely make sense within the context of the film. It’s hard to reveal specifics without getting into spoilers, but let’s just say, I think a more fitting conclusion would’ve been nice. I don’t think it’s a bad ending by any stretch, but it left me a bit frustrated. Still, that is a minor complaint and the movie is very worth watching.

Video: How’s it look?

The film gets a fine transfer on the HD format. It is AVC encoded and comes in a 2.35:1 ratio. I won’t call this an overly colorful film, but there are plenty of strong colors used with the various wardrobes and what not. They are presented here sharply and accurately. There are also many night scenes and a few club scenes which appear darker than other portions of the film, but this is intentional. The background shots are nice and always well defined. Johnson has had many films out recently and it’s amazing how much the man sweats. I constantly spotted beads of sweat on the back of his head and neck. Flesh tones appeared accurate on all the actors as well. The print used is also clean and free of grain and defects, though this isn’t surprising since this is a recent film. I’m very pleased with the image here and fans should be too.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Also strong is the films DTS HD track. Since this isn’t a full fledged action film, don’t expect tons of rear channel support, but they do kick in on a few occasions. The front channels get most of the work and vocals were always concise. The outdoor scenes of New York displayed nice instances of taxi cabs in the background and neighborhood chatter. There was also a good bit of bass during the action scenes that adds to the track. There is a constant balance throughout the track that adds to it. Overall, this is a solid track to accompany the film.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Lionsgate has provided some nice extras for the film. I enjoyed them all quite a bit and they helped flesh out the story on which the film is based. This is a single disc set with a digital copy code.

  • Audio Commentary – This is a nice track with Director Dito Montiel. It discusses the usual factoids about shooting, but also some nice notes about the real-life story.
  • Deleted Scenes – We get three of them here. None of these would’ve progressed the plot, but they’re still fun moments and worth watching.
  • Anatomy of a Heist: The mastermind behind the robbery – This is interesting, but definitely worth watching AFTER you’ve seen the film. I won’t reveal more.
  • Creating an empire: Behind the Scenes – Offers some interviews with the cast and crew. These are nice to see and offer good notes. It’s a bit on the promotional side, but worth a look.
  • Empire State Trailer
  • Previews
  • Digital Copy

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