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Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 2 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

Matt Hough

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Posted July 26 2011 - 09:54 AM

On USA’s exceptionally entertaining caper drama Burn Notice, Jeffrey Donovan plays a tightly-coiled but highly effective ex-secret agent trying desperately to reenter the CIA and who handles domestic crime cases to earn a living in the meantime. As a counterpoint to Donovan’s tense, hyper-agile but no-nonsense crime fighter, the producers cast Bruce Campbell as his polar opposite: an ex-Navy seal who’s effective in his own right but is a much more laid back and easy-going operative offering the viewer a comic respite from an overly aggressive bulldog leading character. In the made-for-TV film Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, we’re offered the last Navy Seal operation Sam Axe worked before relocating to Miami to live the good life (and assist his ex-CIA friend on his sometimes loony cases). But what happens when you produce a hard-driving military operation drama and have an easy-going, joke-filled character as your solo protagonist? The result is a movie at war with itself, wanting desperately to provide edge-of-your-seat thrills but at the same time constantly needing to service the almost blasé attitude of its appealing but somewhat ill-suited leading man.



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Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jeffrey Donovan

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2011


Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 89 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish


Region: A
MSRP: $ 24.99




Release Date: July 26, 2011

Review Date: July 26, 2011



The Film

2.5/5


As punishment for his dalliance with the wife of his admiral (John Diehl), Navy commander Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) is sent to Colombia to investigate a rebel terrorist group called the Espada Ardiente who, according to intelligence, plans a raid on a Doctors for All clinic in the remote regions of the Andes. Once arriving, he joins forces with a Colombian military force headed by Comandante Veracruz (Pedro Pascal), a group that is not at all what it seems. From then on, Sam must play one side against the other in trying to save the clinic’s patients and both doctors on staff (Kiele Sanchez, RonReaco Lee).


Burn Notice creator and show runner Matt Nix penned the script for this TV movie, but he’s got two built-in problems from the get-go. The first is the already mentioned fun-loving main character who never breaks a sweat during this dangerous operation despite much bodily punishment and his life being on the line several times (when you teach your troop football plays as a means of surviving an upcoming assault, you know nothing is being taken too seriously, even people’s lives). If he’s not worried about his survival (and his voiceover narration further continues the ties to the original series and to Sam’s fun-loving nature), why should we? Secondly, the movie is basically told in retrospect, so even if we haven’t been watching Burn Notice for more than four years, we know Sam’s going to emerge intact from the operation no matter its complexities or its dangers, so that’s further dissipation of the film’s dramatic mood. That’s not to say there aren’t entertaining and exciting elements to the narrative; Bruce Campbell’s joie de vivre is too foolproof not to offer some measure of fun for the audience (the movie’s satirical opening moments which poke enormous fun at über-serious military-based films and television shows let the viewer know immediately that much of the film will be played tongue-in-cheek). And director Jeffrey Donovan, on leave from his starring duties as Michael Westen (though he does have a welcome little cameo), shows great flexibility with his camera placements (some high-tiered shots of the climactic attack are quite arresting) and stages several patented Burn Notice-style explosions very nicely.


Bruce Campbell slimmed down and dyed his hair to approximate the Sam Axe of 2005, but it’s the same old Bruce Campbell: fun, free, and never serious for very long. Of the supporting performers, the most entertaining portrayal is delivered by Ilza Rosario as Beatriz, a young member of the rogue paramilitary forces, displaying palpable passion and earnestness for her people and her job in the troop. Pedro Pascal is a more than adequate villain, and RonReaco Lee earns respect as the caretaker of the clinic’s patients. Kiele Sanchez is a rather bland leading lady/love interest for Bruce Campbell, but then to match his effervescence, an actress must really turn on the charm, and Sanchez simply doesn't.



Video Quality

4/5


The film is framed in its widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The movie boasts much better sharpness and color reproduction than the Burn Notice series, likely due to the movie’s having been shot digitally. Sharpness is usually very good though color saturation levels vary during the running time, sometimes running a bit too hot and other times seeming more natural. Flesh tones are accurately represented as a general rule. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.



Audio Quality

4/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t boast the same kind of explosive, immersive quality of a action-oriented feature film, but there are enough ambient sounds routed through the soundstage for a better than average mix. Dialogue has been faultlessly recorded and has been placed in the center channel. Music gets the most serious front and rear treatment. The LFE channel gets a nice workout during the several explosions that occur throughout the movie.



Special Features

3/5


The audio commentary features writer Matt Nix, star Bruce Campbell, and director Jeffrey Donovan. With their obvious close friendship, there are lots of in-jokes and general tomfoolery amid the anecdotes offered about the 22-day shoot on location in Bogotá, Colombia. Nix does most of the talking with Donovan being more restrained. Still, fans of the show will want to hear what the three men have to say.


“The Fall of Jeffrey Donovan” is a tongue-in-cheek exposé on their director as the cast and writer Matt Nix reveal behind-the-scenes candid shots of a director on the verge of a breakdown. This fun little featurette runs 11 ½ minutes in 1080p.


There are two deleted scenes which are put together in a montage that runs 1 ¼ minutes total. They’re in 480i.


“Burn Notice at Comic-Con” is a 26-minute question and answer session with members of the cast and crew of the series at the 2010 Comic-Con. Participating are Matt Nix, Bruce Campbell, Tim Matheson, writer Alfredo Barrios, and panel moderator Chris Vance. It’s in 1080i.


The disc features promo ads for White Collar, Burn Notice, and The Glades.



In Conclusion

3/5 (not an average)


Without the balancing act that Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell effect in every episode of Burn Notice, the franchise loses its real spark. There are moments to savor in Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, but they are relatively minor ones making this a disc that one may find makes for a better rental than a purchase.




Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC



#2 of 2 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted July 26 2011 - 10:47 AM

You were able to put my thoughts into words.  I love the show, and I really like Bruce Campbell, but there was just something about this that didn't click for me.  It was missing something, I wasn't sure what until you said Jeffrey Donovan and I couldn't agree more.  I think fans of the show will still enjoy this, but as long as they don't set their expectations too high.  Fans of Bruce Campbell who have never seen the show will probably really like this as its essentially a 90 minute Jack of All Trades episode set in modern times.