Anchor Bay // 2012 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // May 14th, 2013
No Justice. No Peace.
Hollywood spends a lot of time driving culture -- from news outlets filled with celebrity gossip to contributing significantly to the coffers with huge tent-pole blockbusters, it feels like Hollywood is omnipresent. This fact makes it especially strange when Hollywood is stuck behind some significant event. The Boston Marathon bombings are a perfect example. I'm not the first person to point out that this is movie-plot terrorism, but Hollywood has a tough time (or thinks they'll have a tough time) selling stories too close to the headlines when they run this tragically. Most of us who've been around remembered the Spider-man Twin Towers incident and all the other projects delayed or cancelled in the wake of 9/11. Now A Common Man -- with its plot about a man planting bombs around a city -- will probably suffer a similar fate. Luckily for most viewers, A Common Man is a generic B-movie that just happens to have a couple of good actors in the marquee roles, so if it gets overlooked due to the proximity of tragedy it won't be any big loss.
In Sri Lanka, A Common Man (Ben Kingsley, Iron Man 3) sets up five bombs throughout the city of Colombo. He demands that four dangerous terrorists be released from government prisons or he'll detonate the bombs, killing thousands. He seems like an ordinary citizen, but why would want the release of terrorists? Not everything is as it seems with this Common Man.
I can only imagine that A Common Man is seeing the light of day as it is because the producers are hoping for a little reflected light from Iron Man 3. In that flick Ben Kingsley plays The Mandarin, a terrorist figure/super-villain that's being going strong in the Marvel universe for almost fifty years. I can only assume that the logic goes that since Kingsley plays a terrorist in Iron Man 3 and that movie is so good/famous that people will suddenly have an insatiable need to see Kingsley in more terrorist-oriented roles: A Common Man is designed as the low-budget antidote.
The scary thing about the ploy is that it almost works. Ben Kingsley has matured into one of the most quietly menacing actors on the big screen. Though he's probably a very nice guy, he can radiate the kind of aggression that most actors can't achieve in full-on beast mode. He's not called on here to be aggressive so much as determined; he's got that steely gaze down to a science and as a viewer I am absolutely convinced that he'll blow up anything that gets in his way. If A Common Man is worth watching, it's worth watching solely for his performance. He's aided a bit by Ben Cross (perhaps famous most recently for playing Spock's father in the Star Trek reboot), who plays a cop with similar determination and gravity. The Sri Lankan actors range from good to seemingly amateur, but don't really add much (or detract) from the overall proceedings.
A Common Man (Blu-ray) isn't bad, either. The 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer looks pretty good. The film doesn't appear to have the highest of budgets, so don't expect a visual feast. However, with moderate expectations this transfer pleases. Detail is generally strong, the warm, dusty look of much of the film is well-rendered, and the lush Sri Lankan locations get their due here visually. Black levels are consistent and deep, though much more of the film has a sun-baked look to it. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track is a bit better . Dialogue is always clean and clear from the front, while the surrounds get used for action and some of the score. Balance is never an issue, and the low end is represented well.
There are no extras at all -- just a "play" option and one for scene selection.
The major problem with A Common Man is how relentlessly generic it is. The plot plays like something you'd see on an average evening cop show but expanded to 85 minutes. The action sequences don't look much above TV quality or budget, either. Though I like the idea of heading to Sri Lanka to tell a story (especially since the film is written and directed by non-Americans), but the setting isn't used particularly well. There are a few twists and turns in the plot, but not nearly enough to keep the whole affair from being middling at best. I don't know how Ben Kingsley got roped into this flick, but he's sadly wasted. Finally, the whole film seems to have been post-dubbed, even for the actors whose native tongue is English. Though it's a pretty common practice for non-American movies, it's still a bit weird to see sync problems with English-speaking actors speaking English.
The most rabid fans of Ben Kingsley might get a kick out of A Common Man, but for everyone else it's a generic B-grade action film that happens to have been shot in an interesting location. This Blu-ray looks pretty good, but with no extras it's hard to even recommend a rental.
Guilty of being all too common.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13