Pros: Works relatively well as a blue collar neighborhood period drama
Cons: Miscast lead actor, Slow pacing, no action and very little drama
I apologize for the pun in the title of my review, but I couldn't resist. There have been dozens of films released lately indicating that they are based on true life events. The 2013 crime drama, Empire State is just another in a long list of similar films. Like most of these "true life events," films, this is one is loosely based on events that occurred in 1982 involving the robbery of $11 million dollars from the Sentry Armored Car Company. At the time, it was the largest cash heist in U. S History. Likewise, this film can loosely be labeled a heist film, since the action in the film is basically limited to a roughly 5 minute scene.
After a failed attempt to get into the police academy, Chris Potamitis (Liam Hemsworth) accepts a job as a security guard with Empire State Armoured Truck Company. He soon learns that the company has no internal accounting system for the money stored in their depository and makes the mistake of mentioning it to his best friend Eddie. (Michael Angarano)
After his partner is killed in a robbery, Chris is assigned to desk duty, making it much too easy for his down-and-out friend Eddie to come up with a plan to break into the depository while Chris is on duty. However, Chris and Eddie get a bit more than the bargained for when a persistent cop, James Ransome, (Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock) and the local mob bosses are hot on their trail after discovering that the heist went down on their home turf.
The story in this film is painfully slow developing and unfolds initially, much like an early '80's period period drama in a working class New York neighborhood. Not much happens until about half-way through the film, when the temptation of guarding the unaccounted for cash becomes too much for Chris and he shares his secret with his loose cannon friend Eddie, whose incredibly amateurish robbery forces him to come up with an implausible explanation that arouses Ransome's suspicion. The remainder of the film is an incredibly lame dialog driven cat and mouse game between Chris and Eddie, the cops, and the mob bosses.
Add to the slow pacing, the fact that Hemsworth is miscast as a naive blue collar hunk with a bland personality, coupled with Angarano's over-the-top performance as his overbearing partner in crime, and this film drags on for what seems like an interminable 94 minutes. Although Johnson receives top billing, he is only in a few scenes, and fans of Johnson's fast paced action films will likely be disappointed with this mediocre effort.
Unfortunately, I find little to recommend in this slow-burning crime drama. It makes the largest heist in U.S. History up until 1982 seem extremely mundane. Is there anyone left wondering why it was released straight to video?