Pawn (2013) Blu-ray Review: Intensity That Just Won’t Quit

Few movies can tie up an ending as neatly and shockingly as Se7en did, with everything coming to a head, the entire plot unfolding exactly the way John Doe had planned, leaving the protagonists with an impossible dilemma. Or how about how at the end of The Usual Suspects when viewers learned who Keyser Soze really was and had to immediately re-watch the entire movie with that in mind? What about how Memento told a story in reverse, but somehow managed to make it make more sense the closer you got to the beginning? Those films stand as well regarded classics because they stand up to scrutiny when their stories are viewed under a microscope. Such is not the case with Pawn. I liked it when the credits rolled, but the more I thought about it, the more its tale’s tapestry started to unravel.

We start with a cop (Forest Whitaker) walking into a diner where he is a regular, and is greeted by familiar faces Charlie (Stephen Lang) and Bonnie (Jessica Szohr). Something seems a little off, and you soon realize he’s walked into the middle of a Killing Jar-esque diner hostage situation. Things quickly turn bad, no one is who they seem, and you’re caught up in a whirlwind of tension that doesn’t let go.

This was one of the strongest aspects of the movie, how it just would not relent. From one scene to the next, it’s taut moment after taut moment. Michael Chiklis is stone cold as Derrick, the limey frontman for the robbers/hostage-takers. The intent of the robbery is a front for something else, everyone is out to double-cross everyone else — it all held my attention well enough that I didn’t even notice the time passing or how long the movie actually was.

However, as I said, as soon as you really start picking apart what’s given to you, you’ll find you’re left with more questions than answers. Notice the next paragraph is highlighted as containing spoilers.


I guess we can assume that Barnes (Marton Csokas) is pissed at Nick for making the 911 call that complicated his whole heist, but even if Barnes could convince everyone who doesn’t believe him that Nick is the mastermind, it doesn’t really gain him anything. Yuri (Ronald Guttman) tries to leverage Nick’s wife Amanda (Nikki Reed) as a bargaining chip by way of his evilly cool nameless henchman (Ray Liotta), but Nick has no idea what the heist is about, is not involved in it, and it’s plainly obvious to Yuri that this is the case, so I don’t follow what he stood to gain from threatening the wife of a random hostage who didn’t have what he wanted in the first place. Then, Derrick just so happens to make a deal with Yuri to meet back at his hotel room at the Camelot, where Bonnie was staying and Nick happened bump into Derrick earlier in the movie. That was such a total coincidence that it wasn’t masterfully thought out — it just worked out for the sake of the protagonist. Derrick didn’t really stand to gain anything by doing the device swap at his hotel room, so they could have literally met anywhere else in the city to do the transfer, and the whole rest of the movie would have fallen apart. Then the suggestion at the end that Nick was “cleared” of some wrongdoing or whatever….what? He was a hostage who ended up shooting all the bad guys. Granted, he didn’t know what was happening and his only motivation to show up at the final altercation was based on Yuri’s thug threatening his wife, also for no apparent reason as it was clear Derrick had what Yuri and Barnes wanted, not Nick. Never Nick.


At 88 minutes, they certainly could have added a couple of scenes to tie things up more neatly without it being overly long or tedious. The casting, performances, and cinematography are all very good, and the contrast of the 1080p feature came into great relief when I opted to watch the lone “behind the scenes” special feature on the disc, parts of which looked to have been shot with a late ‘90s webcam.

If you’re in the market for a tightly wound, bloody whodunnit that keeps you guessing in every single scene, check out Pawn. Its shades of Dog Day Afternoon and The Negotiator might distract you just long enough not to notice all the little plot holes they forgot to plug before the end.

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Mark Buckingham

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