In the wake of the attacks in Boston a couple of weeks ago, a movie that presents a man threatening to blow up several public places as an intriguing figure is probably not going to be well-received, but A Common Man is a poor thriller even aside from its case of bad timing. From logos to credits, the film is the definition of "by the book," with the only deviations from time-tested formula being the unnatural cadence that occasionally infects the performances or the dialogue.
Ben Kingsley plays the common man in the title, a normal-looking fellow who drops duffel bags on a bus, on a commuter train, in a shopping mall, and even in a police station. He then returns to a rooftop control center, where he sits in front of a tiny television and a series of cell phones, and politely informs the Deputy Inspector General (Ben Cross) that they have until six sharp to comply with his demand to release four high-profile terrorists from prison, or the bombs will detonate. He lets the DIG know there's one in the police station, and even tells them how to disarm it, but there are still four left: the three in public places, and one other bomb in an undisclosed location.
Anyone with a little imagination can probably guess what A Common Man will ultimately reveal about Kingsley's character, even if the details are a little vague. In fact, it's almost hard to write a review of the movie without spoiling it, but since director Chandran Rutnam treats it like it should be a surprise, I'll leave it a "secret." Of course, predictability doesn't necessarily make a movie bad, but the A-thread is the only story A Common Man has to tell. Side characters, such as a cop's wife and a news reporter, are either so unimportant as to be little more than window dressing, or not removed enough from the central story to function as supporting material. Anyone who enjoys the sensation of waiting ought to move this one to the top of their "must-rent" list.
To make matters worse, the film has either some desynchronization problems, or it was entirely dubbed into English, which often makes for an awkward viewing experience. If it's not dubbed, it feels dubbed, with awkward sentences that feel as if they were written to match mouth movement and strange, unnatural pauses dropped between random words and lines. In terms of editing, the film strolls along at a leisurely pace, randomly introducing an action chase and a "close" call with a helicopter to make up for the fact that this is a thriller without many thrills. Sadly, the talent of the stunt performers and choreographers involved in this sequence is limited, and it feels like an unnecessary diversion for little reward.
To top things off, Kingsley gives a flat performance that either stems from his character, the movie's potential ADR problem, or simply the fact that he just doesn't care much about this one, all of which are issues that can be chalked up to the filmmaker. The title suggests that an average person has become so frustrated by the situation they're in that they were pushed to act, but Kingsley lays out his demands and with all the passion and intensity of a guy ordering a cup of coffee. Then again, considering A Common Man's dull simplicity, perhaps "common" isn't such an inaccurate name for the movie after all.
A Common Man gets generic-looking "explosive" artwork that should totally con at least a few people at the Redbox into thinking there will be a significant amount of action pyrotechnics in the movie. The disc comes in a standard Blu-Ray case, and there is a leaflet with four coupons that will get the owner a few bucks off some other Anchor Bay titles.
The Video and Audio
It's too bad A Common Man isn't a very good movie, because Anchor Bay's 1.85:1 AVC 1080p video presentation of the film is absolutely flawless. Close-ups of Kingsley's face contain such astronomical levels of detail and texture that the image is practically in 3D. Colors are vivid, black levels are inky and deeply pleasing, and slightly hot whites are clearly intentional. I did not spot a single instance of banding, artifacting, or aliasing in the transfer. Reference-quality.
A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is almost the opposite experience. This might as well be the poster child for a direct-to-video mix, with flat, artificial sound effects that fail to envelop the viewer beyond the most basic directionality. Dialogue is very bold -- too bold, in fact. In two players, the sound appeared slightly desynchronized from the picture. It might be the fault of Anchor Bay, but for almost an hour I thought the film was just dubbed, despite the actors' lips matching the English dialogue, simply because the cadence of some of the lines is so weird. No subtitles are included, either, which is a pain.
The only other content on the disc is two auto-play trailers for Chained and Pawn.
A Common Man is A Movie, tailored after other movies and packaged to sell rather than entertain or fulfill some sort of artistic vision. Yawn. Skip it.
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