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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A COMMON MAN -- DVD review by porfle

A USA-Sri Lanka co-production, director Chandran Rutnam's A COMMON MAN (2012) wants to be one of those riveting, intensely suspenseful thrillers about a mad terrorist bomber but, despite trying really hard, succeeds only in being a barely average one.

The best part about it is Ben Kingsley (GHANDI, SEXY BEAST), although it's hard to appreciate his performance until one fully understands his character--which only happens during the final minutes. Until then, we see him calmly going about the task of planting bombs in various locations around the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka, and we find ourselves studying his bland exterior for any signs of how this makes him feel. When he arranges his detonators on the roof of a deserted building with a panoramic view of those bomb-laden locations, he might as well be making cucumber sandwiches for lunch. Just how coldblooded is this guy?

Ben Cross, on the other hand, plays Deputy Inspector General Morris Da Silva of the "Special Task Force" in such a generally unconvincing manner that I can only attribute it to poor direction and some really bad dubbing. Usually a reliable actor (as when playing Spock's father Sarek in J.J. Abrams' STAR TREK), here he seems to constantly veer between subtlety and an almost amateurish overplaying as he deals with Kingsley's demands over the phone. Which, unsurprisingly, consist of the release of four imprisoned terrorists who are to be taken to the nearest airport and allowed to fly to freedom. Or else--kaboom.

The dynamic quality lacking in Cross' character is mirrored by the flaccid direction and photography of the task force scenes, which also suffer from poor editing as well as some pacing problems. All of this works against the scenes that should be gripping us in suspense rather than keeping us on the verge of dozing off.

Even a cop vs. suspect foot chase through the heart of the city--something just about any TV cop show can pull off without breaking a sweat--is marred by slapdash execution. Granted, such scenes manage to carry the plot along as required, but there simply isn't anything special or out of the ordinary about them. And the fact that most of the supporting cast give subpar performances doesn't help.

On the plus side, Kingsley is always interesting to watch. So is Ben Cross, even under less than ideal circumstances. And there's a late plot twist that really perks things up even if you see it coming from a mile away. Finally, the last scene brings it all together in such a way that one feels satisfied at the fadeout, thanks mainly to the two stars and to director Rutnam finding a bit of inspiration at last.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound. No subtitles or extras.

Despite its potential as a nail-biting suspense thriller, A COMMON MAN never really rises above being bland almost to the point of tedium. It does, however, manage to deliver the minimum amount of entertainment required to qualify it as a passable time-waster instead of--all together now--a bomb.

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