The Appellate Judge James A. Stewart Way is under construction.
"You know what I like about you, Neal? Even when you're in a position where you have no choice, you convince yourself you do."
When we first meet Neal Bannen, he's puffing away in a Nicotine Anonymous meeting. Three big guys drag him outside, but they're not bouncers, they're debt collectors. Bannen has some explaining to do—to the audience. Flashbacks and voiceover tell us he's a trickster with a knack for gambling, and he's got a mobbed-up uncle and a cop dad. Soon, he's in pursuit of a mysterious box stolen from his uncle that contains—well, who knows?
The Bannen Way is edited from a short-form video series that ran on Crackle.com, and it's slick enough that I thought it was a feature-length movie all along. I was guessing made-for-pay-cable, since it feels a little like Burn Notice with its heavy dose of narration, character names flashing on the screen, and lighthearted action, but has the added touches of blood, profanity, and sex, all three represented amply by a trio of what one of his associates calls "the hottest assassins I have ever seen." There's also gratuitous split-screen work, a la 24, and appearances by the familiar faces of Michael Ironside, Vanessa Marcil, Robert Forster, and Autumn Reeser.
One other thing that flashes before viewers' eyes onscreen is the set of principles which guides Bannen's life. They're the maxims of his granddad, stuff like "Treat your enemies like friends," "When in need…appeal to greed," and "Whatever you do…do it with audacity."
That last one seems to be the only principle Bannen (Mark Gantt, who co-created the video series with Jesse Warren) actually lives by, as he makes love to the receptionist in the office of the guy he's robbing or juggles the cops and several factions of mobsters. Bannen's audacity is one of the things that makes The Bannen Way work, since it leaves viewers wondering what he'll do next. The other thing is its fast pace. Since it originated as a series of video shorts, the elements of blood, profanity, and sex had to work their way into each short piece, making the longform movie go fast enough that you don't really think about it much. That's helpful.
There are more than 20 minutes of shorts in "Getting Behind the Bannen Way," making-of extras. Several of them deal with the women in the cast. There's a little bit of information, but they mainly serve to let viewers know that the three lady assassins and other assorted femmes fatale are nothing like their dangerous on-screen characters, just in case it wasn't obvious.
Unless you're already a fan of The Bannen Way from Crackle.com, I wouldn't recommend buying it. However, as a timekiller rental, it does the job well, moving a dull evening along at a breezy pace.
Like a guy who smokes at a Nicotine Anonymous meeting, The Bannen Way
is guilty as sin, but gets away with a lot.
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