MRR Movie Review: Setup

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Bruce Willis, Jenna Dewan & Ryan Phillippe star in this action crime thriller about a group of friends that becomes involved in a potentially deadly diamond heist.
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Movie Review: "Setup"

-- Rating: R (strong violence, language)
Length: 85 minutes
Release Date: October 13, 2011
Directed by: Mike Gunther
Genre: Action/Crime/Drama

At the beginning of "Setup," the audience sees Vincent (Ryan Phillippe) planning the perfect heist with his buddies Sonny (50 Cent) and Dave (Brett Granstaff). They seem to be a small but close-knit group of friends with a penchant for theft. The group appears to be prepared for the heist; however, with a movie title like "Setup," the audience should be ready for things to not always be what they seem. In this case, the initially happy group of thieves is suddenly broken up because of Vincent's greed.

As soon as the trio finishes the planned heist, Vincent takes his gun and unloads on his two friends, killing Dave and leaving Sonny for dead. Sonny survives the ordeal and is determined to exact revenge on Vincent but quickly realizes that he can't do it alone, especially without Dave. In a move that he wonders if he'll regret, he decides to ask for the help of a very notorious kingpin named Jack Biggs (Bruce Willis). There is nobody with more workers and resources in all of Detroit, a city that serves as the perfect background for this moody thriller.

Biggs loves what he does, maybe a little too much. He considers helping Sonny find Vincent, not because he is a good guy, but because he thinks that it would be fun to watch them square off. In the meantime, Biggs forces Sonny to take on a few side projects before he will serve Vincent up to him on a silver platter. For example, Sonny is forced to approach some tough-guy Russian mobsters who are heavily armed and dangerous and rob them at gunpoint. These small side jobs are nice, tense diversions as the plot moves toward the final showdown between Sonny and Vincent that will determine both their fates. Some big decisions about friendship and fate will be made, and none of them will be taken lightly. There is too much history between these characters to simply dismiss their bonds, despite Vincent's ugly betrayal. Will the two friends patch things up, or will it be the end for one or both of them as Sonny decides whether to go through with his bloody plan for revenge?

Willis has been a bona fide action star in every sense of the word since he took his star-making turn in the original "Die Hard" and all of its sequels. He is a seasoned veteran who knows when to share the screen with other actors and when to take over, both of which he does in varying degrees in "Setup." He doesn't have a ton of screen time; in fact, his role is much more of a supporting one compared to 50 Cent and Phillippe. Fortunately, he uses his experience to make the most of his brief time onscreen, maximizing the impact that his character has on the overall narrative. The scenes he shares with 50 Cent are especially compelling, with Willis only having to give a wry smile or nod in order to get his point across to his young, vengeful protégée.

Phillippe not only turns in a good performance but also goes completely against type in this film. In some of his more popular roles in the past, he often played caddish guys who secretly had hearts of gold or completely earnest characters like the one he portrayed in "Flags of Our Fathers." In "Setup," he plays a nearly unredeemable character who would sell his closest friends down the river if it meant he could get a bigger piece of the pie. He is completely believable in the role, which could open up a whole new set of potential characters for him to portray in future films.

Director Mike Gunther uses a variety of visual devices to keep the action taut and exciting. On occasion, a hand-held camera is used to capture footage of chase scenes, which helps make these scenes much more realistic. At other times, Gunther uses a traditional camera to capture the action, showing his versatility and understanding of what equipment is needed to get a scene's message across to the audience. This type of attention to detail helps keep "Setup" moving along at a quick pace that never drags and is satisfying to the audience by the time the film concludes. It is a classic action film with a few twists, great camera work, and a solid cast. Add in the fine directorial effort of Gunther, and "Setup" becomes a fun popcorn flick with enough twists and thrills to keep viewers glued to their seats.

Rating 3 out of 5 stars