MRR Review: "Empire State"

Photo Credit: Lionsgate

MRR Review: "Empire State"

Rating: R (for pervasive language and violence)
Length: 94 min.
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2013
Directed By: Dito Montiel
Genre: Action, Drama

"Empire State" is a fast-paced 2013 action drama that tells the tale of two best friends who try to make it big by pulling off the heist of the century. Liam Hemsworth stars as Chris Potamitis, a typical good guy who fails his entrance test for the police academy. After losing sight of his long-term dream to become a police officer, Chris takes a job as a security officer for Empire State Armored Truck Company. One day, Chris finds himself joking with his best friend, Eddie, about how poorly the company is run and how easy it would be to heist the millions of dollars kept at the company storage facility. Eddie, who has always been a mischievous and daring soul, is instantly struck by an idea. He hatches a scheme in which he and Chris rob the Empire State Armored Truck Company and become known as the robbers who perpetuated the largest heist in history.

As usual, Chris goes along with Eddie's idea even though it puts his life and his job on the line. At first, everything seems to go according to plan. Unfortunately, things get complicated when a tough former NYPD detective is put on the case. Dwayne Johnson plays James Ransone, a tough-as-nails veteran of the force who isn't afraid to go above the law if it means solving one of the biggest crimes in recent history. The hapless friends find themselves in way over their heads as they try to evade Detective Ransone and hide their massive haul of cash. Meanwhile, the local crime lords in the area aren't thrilled that someone dared to pull off such a huge heist in their territory. As the media attention surrounding the crime grows and Eddie and Chris become anonymous antiheroes, the foes start to close in on all sides.

While "Empire State" may seem like a typical action film at first glance, the solid performances and unique story offer more than a run of the mill summer heist film. Liam Hemsworth is brilliant as Chris, giving a believable performance as a twenty-something who bites off far more than he can chew. Chris is easy to relate to in spite of his dubious choice to rob his employer of millions. As the film progresses, viewers witness his transformation from a bland follower being led astray by his best friend to a real man with leadership qualities and decision-making abilities. Michael Angarano is hilarious as Eddie, the perpetrator in nearly every conflict throughout the film.

The interactions between Liam Hemsworth and Michael Angarano, who portray the two main characters behind the daring heist, have fantastic chemistry. "Empire State" may be the film Liam Hemsworth needs to step into the spotlight and out of the shadow cast by Chris Hemsworth, his older brother and fellow action film actor. In the film, even though the two reckless friends are the criminals behind the biggest heist of all time, audiences can't help but root for them as they pursue their bizarre dreams. Much like with the true story "Empire State" is based on, Chris and Eddie receive a massive amount of public attention that is both positive and negative. The real young men behind the massive heist are still celebrated for their gumption, especially since they were not criminals by nature and had never been involved in illegal schemes before.

Even though "Empire State" is a fairly serious film, at its heart is the close relationship between two childhood best friends who had no idea what they were getting into. The friendship shared by Chris and Eddie is touching and surprisingly easy to relate to. "Empire State" questions what it means to be loyal to your best friend no matter what. For Chris, loyalty means helping Eddie pursue his goals and being there to protect and help him at any cost. In the midst of the drama the two friends bring upon themselves when they rob the Empire State Armored Truck Company, Chris and Eddie share plenty of heartwarming and occasionally funny moments as they bumble blindly through scheme after scheme in a desperate attempt to get away with the perfect crime. Director Dito Montiel knew exactly what he was doing when he cast Liam Hemsworth and Michael Angarano as Chris and Eddie. He used their chemistry to the film's advantage by employing plenty of lighthearted scenes to give audiences a break from the relentless action as Dwayne Johnson gets closer and closer to putting an end to their wild schemes forever.

Stars: 2.5 of 5