44 Minutes is a made for TV movies recently sent to home video courtesy of Fox, after it was shown on the FX channel awhile back. The film is based on a real life incident in which two men strapped on full Kevlar body armor, grabbed a couple of machine guns, and robbed a bank in California back in 1997.
The film follows the cops who were sent to the scene to take care of the problem and the ensuing shoot-out that occurred right there on the street in front of the bank. Michael Madson (who will always be remembered for Reservoir Dogs) and Mario Van Peebles (who is nowhere near as cool as his dad, Melvin!) are members of the Los Angeles Police Department who are sent on the scene to take care of business. At one point in time Madson refers to him and his team as 'the best of the best' and while it'd be great if I could agree and sing the praises of the police on the scene, this movie sadly doesn't really give you much confidence in those on the job.
Don't get me wrong – I have a whole world of sympathy for the police. Those guys are out there putting their lives on the line for taxpayer like you and me everyday and I don't envy them one bit. It's, at times, a very dangerous and high stress job and it takes a special kind of person to do the job and to do it well. I don't know anyone who was involved on the police side of the events that took place in this movie, but the film does NOT do a good job of making them look admirable. Instead, it relies almost solely on tired clichés and bad dialogue that actually made me wince in a few spots.
The final shoot out is great though. Plenty of action and some well-handled realistic violence effectively pull the viewer into the scene and during these moments the film does create a nice sense of danger. You do find yourself wanting to know how it all ends and you do find yourself hoping that the cops are going to pull it off, but really, at risk of spoiling it here, how long did it really take them to figure out that they needed to aim for the head? Sure, you've got to diplomatic and try and talk them out of it all first but once the thugs open fire on a troop of police officers with a pair of illegal AK-47s I figure you're pretty justified to shoot back and if they're covered in body armor, shooting them in the chest isn't going to do a whole helluva lot of help you out.
Regardless, those complains aside 44 Minutes does ultimately deliver a decent action set piece and it reminded me of the ending of Michael Mann's Heat, of which I had similar complaints towards. The movie though is quite fast paced with plenty of action, and if it hadn't relied on so many tired action movie clichés it might have rated higher for me. The Peckinpah style slow motioned shots don't serve any real purpose and while Bloody Sam was able to use the technique in a fresh and artistic manner in most of his films, here it comes across as unnecessary and simply an exercise in style over substance.
Enhanced for anamorphic television sets, the 1.78.1 widescreen presentation is decent overall but not without its flaws. While the colors are nice and the blacks are deep and solid, there are a few spots where during the darker scenes the image gets a little muddy looking and a few other scenes where it looks a bit on the soft side. It's not a bad transfer, but it certainly shows some room for improvement and for such a recent production, that's a little disappointing.
44 Minutes has an aggressive and active English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix on it with optional English and Spanish subtitles. During the shoot out, bullets fly back and forth from all directions and the mix does a nice job of parlaying that through the surrounds. There are a couple of moments where a few of the directional effects are placed wrong (ie. a bullet that should have come from behind comes from the side, etc.), but aside from that the dialogue is clear, and the effects and music are balanced nicely on this DVD.
Aside from trailers for The French Connection and The Verdict, there is a short featurette on The Shield for some reason, and a behind the scenes piece on the making of 44 Minutes which comes across as little more than a glorified advertisement for the film despite a couple of interesting revelations about the history of the movie.
While 44 Minutes had some serious potential, sadly it didn't live up to it and instead comes off as a clichéd and rushed production with little to recommend about it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.