It doesn't take an expert to see that the internet is on the verge of becoming the television of the 21st century. "2 AM TV" has already been perfectly summed up by Hulu, a mixture of reruns, clips, advertisements, and a veritable cache of obscure movies that mostly attracted dust in the VHS rental stores of the '90s, presented in their entirety for spur-of-the-moment viewing pleasure. Sony has a competitor to Hulu called Crackle, and Crackle has taken it a step further, offering original programming alongside the movies and TV shows. One of those shows is The Bannen Way, an action-comedy that perfectly encapsulates another part of the TV experience: background noise.
Mark Gantt (also the co-writer and co-producer) plays Neal Bannen, a would-be thief who frequently finds himself on everyone's bad side. He's $150,000 in debt to a corny Latino gangster named Sonny (Ski Carr), and otherwise trapped between a rock and a hard place: his gangster uncle Mr. B (Robert Forster) and his police chief father (Michael Ironside). When we first meet Bannen, he's just turned $100,000 of the $150,000 he owes Sonny into $250,000, then turned it into $0 over the course of a bad card game, and discovered that his uncle wants to offer him the job of a lifetime, one that may or may not make Bannen a millionaire if he can complete it without being arrested or shot by somebody, up to and including his mysterious surprise partner-in-crime, Madison (Vanessa Marcil).
It's not that any part of The Bannen Way is bad, it's just that there isn't a single thing going on here that viewers haven't already seen, done better and with more panache. You could hardly describe it in a sentence without making it sound boring without dropping a director's name in there (Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino). Director and co-creator Jesse Warren has the occasionally clever stylistic touch (I liked seeing Bannen's visualizations of a job before he actually does them), but even those aren't original, just pulled off with enough enthusiasm to go with the flow. The film (restitched as a feature from the original 16 webisodes) manages to make it to the end of around 80 of the film's 90-something minutes without running out of steam, but even that's a bit of a stretch.
Gantt has a limited amount of chemistry, and could kill in a supporting role, but he falls back on his bright-eyed smirk a few too many times until it starts to rub the viewer the wrong way. Bannen's big trick is not investing too deeply in things, but after awhile it becomes clear that Gantt is right for the role because he doesn't invest much either. There's no depth to Bannen: he's just sort of there, while women, death threats and various faces drop in and depart around him. Sadly, nobody else is particularly interesting either, including Marcil, Forster and Ironside. I picked the DVD primarily because I love Forster and Jackie Brown to no end, but the script offers nothing interesting for him to do, and he does it, like a professional. The most interesting thing in the whole movie is a trio of assassins played by Autumn Reeser, Brianne Davis and Brittany Ishibashi, but, oh, wait, I saw that already, in Smokin' Aces 2 -- a movie that even starred Reeser as one of the assassins.
The whole project coasts along on its modestly-budgeted but still-slick visuals and general amicability until suddenly it's over, and there's not much more to think or feel about something that'd best be absorbed in the background amidst household chores, or in that vague half-awake state that can only be properly achieved after 1:59am. It shouldn't be surprising that 16 episodes of an internet TV show add up to the television equivalent of a movie (everyone basically returns to the status quo), or that the next generation of middling television is exactly like the last one, just accessible via a different box. Still, if The Bannen Way represents the majority of what we can expect out of the online programming revolution, well, pardon me if I stick with genuine theatrical features.
The Video and Audio
The Bannen Way is offered in a 1.78:1 widescreen presentation that felt lacking to me. Fellow DVDTalker Rohit Rao says otherwise, so maybe my eyes have just been blinded by the quality of Blu-Ray, but I felt the image, like many Sony releases, looks "harsh". It may be as a result of the film's production lighting, but it all loks kind of rough around the edges, in a way that suggests edge enhancement. Most viewers probably won't be bothered by it, and the image is otherwise consistent, but it bugged me.
Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is basically unremarkable. Bannen talks, you hear it, and music spreads to the surrounds. Perhaps if the action was louder (we're not talking gunfights here) there might be more to say, but it's a perfectly average affair. I do appreciate that both English subtitles and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are included, though.
Six featurettes called "Assasins", "The Babes, "The Girl", "The Man", "The Style", and "The Vision" (5:03, 3:19, 3:18, 3:13, 3:36, 3:19) combine to create "Getting Behind The Bannen Way" (22:48), a slick EPK that really doesn't reveal a whole lot about the making of the show but moves fast enough that it registers as fluff rather than a slog.
The only other incluson on the disc is trailers, although a trailer for The Bannen Way is not included.
Maybe, maybe at your bored-est and most forgiving, The Bannen Way ekes out a rental recomendation, because it's relatively likable (if totally uninspired). However, the thing is an internet show that should, in fact, be available online for free -- if Sony's trying to trick you into paying for it because you waited, well, that I can't reward. Skip it until they reinstate it in its proper environment.
Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-Ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.