March 19, 2014
Set in the Greek Quarter of New York City back in the early 1980s, "Empire State" is about Chris Potamitis (Liam Hemsworth), a lowly-paid security guard of an armored truck company. He made the unfortunate decision to abet in a robbery on his employer planned by his lowlife best friend, Eddie (Michael Angarano). These two absolutely clueless criminal amateurs actually pull off what turned out to be the biggest cash heist in the US history at that time. All the local professional gangsters take note of this bold incursion into their turf and demand their take of the loot. But tough NYPD cop Detective Ransome (Dwayne Johnson) relentlessly breathe down their necks.
Poor Liam Hemsworth looked very uncomfortable the whole time. He did not look convincing at all as a down-and-out impoverished security guard, despite that oversized uniform he was made to wear. I was thinking that his co-star, the scrawny Michael Angarano, would have been better off as Chris instead of his supporting role of Eddie. This was especially after we see a clip of the real Chris Potamitis at the end of the film.
For his part, Angarano was quite okay as the sleazy Eddie. He had the right look and attitude for the character. It was just too bad that his character was poorly developed. Dwayne Johnson acted like all those macho cop roles he had taken on before this one. However, he looked and acted too "modern" and did not look like he belonged in that time period when these events happened. Emma Roberts had a role as Chris' girlfriend, which was largely inconsequential despite how she was billed in the poster.
The true-to-life crime story actually had potential to be a good film. Under the direction of Dito Montiel though, its lazy and lifeless execution left a lot to be desired. The story-telling was slow and boring. There was no feeling of excitement even during the actual heist itself. There was no dramatic tension where there should have been. That scene of Chris with his father at the end could have been an awesome confrontation scene, but fell flat instead. This film looked and felt more like a made-for-TV movie from the 1980s than a current big screen feature. 3/10.