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Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // December 1, 2015
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted December 12, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

There's a scene early on in Momentum where Alex, the enigmatic thief played by Olga Kurylenko who had previously displayed expert combat capabilities, sneaks up behind the villain pursuing her, Mr. Washington, and pulls the trigger on her gun, only to discover -- with him now facing her -- that it wasn't actually loaded. Shortly after, Mr. Washington (James Purefoy) comments on Alex being "really good", even following a firefight among roughly a half-dozen individuals in close proximity where, in traditional action-movie fashion, bullets missed their targets in all directions. That's the caliber of thrills going on in Stephen Campanelli's feature-length debut: the emphasized abilities and intellects of these covert individuals are in disagreement with what actually plays out in their cat-and-mouse maneuverings, piling up action-movie cliches to form a dull, clunky and, at times, needlessly coarse escapade that cannot be saved by Kurylenko's exotic heroine.

Momentum starts out with a group of militants in neon-lit body armor holding up a high-tech, seemingly impenetrable bank in pursuit of diamonds, the last heist that Alex (Kurylenko) wanted to participate in before returning to her retirement. What she and her team didn't plan around is that the vault also guarded a thumb drive with sensitive government information, earning the interest of higher-ups who don't want these materials to escape into the open. A senator (Morgan Freeman) assigns a team of "cleaners", led by the particularly ruthless Mr. Washington (Purefoy), to rectify the situation and retrieve the missing drive, flushing Alex from her hideout. She'll have to figure out what friends she has left and what kinds of moves she might be able to make in getting her underground, all while staying as low-profile as possible to keep from being recognized. Thus begins the chase to find the highly-trained woman with a clandestine past, one that comes more into focus as the pursuit continues.

Ultramodern bank equipment, a swanky hotel with complicated hallways, and a grimy torture chamber with heavy chains dangling in view suggest the potential for stylish bravado in Momentum, hallmarked by a metallic palette and the scattering of broken glass and sprayed blood amid the urban warfare. This makes for an eye-catching environment in quick bursts -- y'know, the amount found in a trailer -- but the action that takes place in each location doesn't deliver enough brainpower or responsiveness to make the most of these locations. It doesn't help that the heist itself starts things off on a sour note due to how Alex and her crew actually get through the security measures and come into possession of the drive, hoping to distract the audience from the inanity of what's going on with the coolness of neon lights and voice-changing helmets that the robbers wear. Campanelli's visual diversion continues from there, with terse movement and creative angles disguising the impracticality surrounding off-the-mark bullets, skewed fistfights, and crazy car chases.

Despite how Olga Kurylenko commands fiery and/or domineering supporting presences in the likes of Quantum of Solace and Centurion, she can't quite embody the character of a combat-trained criminal in Momentum, her strained presence unable to support the legitimacy of the vigorous action. Against other trained thugs, her attempts at hand-to-hand fighting and ruthless pragmatism are too rigid to be convincing, despite the generous editing work and jittery movement that artificially evoke some liveliness. The wide-eyed gazes and palpable tension Kurylenko brings to her roles are present here, but they're mismatched with the experience and composure expected of a highly-trained individual like Alex. James Purefoy smarms his way through a simple, hot-blooded villain as Mr. Washington, not-so-ironically labeled "one-dimensional" by Alex herself later on, while his entourage of "cleaners" are a medley of uninteresting brutes with little finesse as baddies. Morgan Freeman is, well, Morgan Freeman as the unsavory Senator, sprucing up the quality with little more than a one-location cameo.

One can find any or all of those things in a number of watchable Hollywood crime-suspense flicks, though, ones which might've still been tolerable had the action delivered. What's bothersome about Momentum is the excessive volatility that comes out of the script from Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan, the writers behind the most recent Texas Chainsaw reboot, which pushes the envelope with some fairly grisly elements -- intense threats of forced sex, severed heads, a curiously used bomb -- without suitably justifying the reasons they need to exist within the action. They come across as overly gritty for the sake of being gritty instead of natural extensions of the circumstances, pouring energy into unfun shock value instead of tightening up the dodgy common sense and flimsy character reactions that give the film a lingering falseness from start to finish. When the reveals finally start to flare up in the explosive conclusion to Momentum, the details about the innocuous thumb drive and the secrets of Alex's past, it's difficult to keep moving forward after the draining retread that comes before them.

The Blu-ray:

Video and Audio:

The steely palette and modernistic design of Momentum renders a cinematic experience that's both drab and sleek, which leads Anchor Bay's Blu-ray to relish its detail clarity and fleeting moments of color in its 2.39:1-framed 1080p AVC transfer. The photography looks somewhat flat and struggles to project a smooth 24p flow at points, whether it's the brisk movement of a car or a subtler panning of the camera across Kurylenko in front of a mirror; however, it also embraces plenty of fine detail in hair and eyes, within garments and artillery, and in both the glossy interior or an expensive hotel and the gritty surroundings of urban environments. Contrast remains impeccable throughout, rendering somewhat light but intuitive black levels that respect details within and encourage the depth of the muted but appropriate skin tones, while the brief shots of colors that do emerge -- bright lights from the heist gear, blood spatter, paintings -- are strong and aware of the intended visual intentions.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track propels the film through scenes both raucous and subtle, hitting hard with traditional action-movie effects and relishing more subtle elements when they emerge. Explosions, gunfire, and slammed bodies during brawls hit hard on the lower-frequency channel -- perhaps a bit too hard in some cases, resulting in some overly bombastic resonance -- while higher-pitched effects like the shattering of glass or blade puncturing sounds are crisp and intense without any distortion. Dialogue is moderately satisfying and discernible, but the garbled yelling of the voice-changer devices early in the film are extremely difficult to make out, no matter who's speaking. Atmospheric effects in air shafts and during combat situations in enclosed spaces telegraph a plentiful amount of surround activity, evenly balanced with the traditional suspenseful soundtrack that throttles the energy forward ... especially the rhythmic drums that begin the film. English and Spanish subtitles are available.

Special Features:

Anchor Bay have included a fairly standard press-kit Momentum: Behind the Scenes (23:21, 16x9 HD) featurette, which includes interviews with director Stephen Campanelli, actors Olga Kurylenko and James Purefoy, and many other cast members spliced together with behind-the-scenes footage and generous clips from the film. Most of the conversations revolve around the individual characters each interviewee plays and how they dealt with the stunt demands of their roles, while director Campanelli gets into some of the meat of the film by discussing the characteristics of the "cleaner" characters and how his camerawork experience plays into his directing style. It's also interesting to see exactly how much color was reduced from the palette while watching the behind-the-scenes material, full of vibrant blues and warm lighting that would've been more welcome in the picture itself.

Final Thoughts:

Olga Kurylenko can be quite an on-screen presence while filling a number of roles, from tribal warrior to stunned space traveler or bewildered Bond girl, but seeing her take the reins as the central heroine isn't enough to bolster the derivative action-movie flow and clumsy button-pushing of Momentum. An admirable visual style and the distinctive poise of the actress stand out through director Stephen Campanelli's perspective, but the bulky energy and dubious happenings with the cat-and-mouse suspense drags down its positive merits, as does the film's on-the-nose dialogue. Anchor Bay's suitable Blu-ray will make the viewing experience a worthwhile rental for its fleeting visual treats, but you're not missing much if you let this one pass you by. Skip It.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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