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A Common Man Blu-ray Review

A Common Man Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com A Common Man
Movie & Blu-ray Details

Video Premiere: May 21, 2013 / Running Time: 86 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Chandran Rutnam / Writers: Chandran Rutnam (screenplay); Neeraj Pandey (original film A Wednesday)

Cast: Ben Kingsley (The Man), Ben Cross (D I G Morris Da Silva), Patrick Rutnam (IP Mohideen Anver), Frederick-James Lobato (IP Ranjan Jayaweera), Numaya Siriwardena (Dilky Thenuwara), Kian O'Grady (Sgt. Bernard), Jerome De Silva (SP Victor), Dushyanth Weeraman (Dilfer), Mohammed Adamaly (Chief Secretary), Susan Zareena (Aisa), Lucky Wickremanayake (Chief Minister), Veena Jayakody (Vegetable Seller), Ashan Dias (Akthul Majood), Wilson Gunaratne (Prakash "P.K." Kumar), Sando Harris (D. Gopinath), Wilmon Sirimanne (Sunil Master)

1.78:1 Widescreen; Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Also available on DVD ($22.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

Buy A Common Man from Amazon: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

An Englishman of Indian descent, Ben Kingsley is probably still best known for portraying Mahatma Gandhi. In the thirty years since that Oscar-winning performance, Kingsley has worked extensively on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. His exotic looks have made him an obvious choice to play Middle Eastern types in films like Prince of Persia,
The Dictator, and Iron Man 3. He's also had no trouble playing Jewish, French, and American characters for the likes of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. Kingsley's latest effort, A Common Man, finds him playing a citizen of Sri Lanka, the Asian island nation where this film was produced.

In the titular role, Kingsley plays a bald, goateed man who in the opening scenes is seen ominously dropping off duffel bags in an assortment of public places around the city of Colombo: a bus, a train, a shopping mall, a police station bathroom. This disgruntled individual then sets up on an urban rooftop, placing a call to Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Morris Da Silva (Chariots of Fire's Ben Cross). Our lead explains that he has dispersed these bags containing homemade explosive devices around the community and that he will detonate them if his instructions are not followed precisely. The weary DIG takes the threat seriously, especially after the police station bomb is found and defused per the caller's directions. Unable to secure someone of greater authority, the DIG takes control of the situation, as the caller demands the release of four imprisoned "warriors" (i.e. convicted terrorists).

"A Common Man" stars Ben Kingsley as an ordinary Sri Lankan with an uncommon plan.

Making use of an arsenal of cell phones and SIM cards, the caller is untraceable by conventional methods. That doesn't mean the DIG doesn't try alternative methods, enlisting a hot-headed, motorcycle-riding rogue cop (Frederick-James Lobato) who even dresses like Bruce Willis in Die Hard with a Vengeance when he's not shirtlessly interrogating suspects with the twirl of a baton. In addition to that wannabe action hero, there is comic relief had in Dilfer (Dushyanth Weeraman), a laid-back, sunglasses-wearing cool guy computer hacker. Also responding to the threat is a young officer (Patrick Rutnam) unaware that his wife and infant daughter are riding in the very train car set to blow. In addition to his regular calls to the DIG, our common man communicates with Dilky (Numaya Siriwardena), a young TV reporter who has mixed feelings about her unusual role in all this.

A Common Man feels well beneath Kingsley's talent and demand. This amateurish feature boasts the production values of a Syfy original movie. It's also plagued by a corny, overwrought score that dilutes the tension and at times renders the whole thing ridiculous. And yet, Kingsley doesn't treat the job like a vacation or easy paycheck, although given the design of the shoot it must have been both of those things. He commits to this character and commands our full attention without having another actor onscreen with him for most of the runtime.

There is a big twist revealed about an hour in that changes the dynamic of the entire film for the better. I won't spoil it but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised for this action suspense thriller to suddenly take on some relevance while instantly altering your perception of it. Still, the technical shortcomings linger and the writing remains as clunky as it is sharp.

Unable to get ahold of anyone with greater authority, Deputy Inspector General Morris Da Silva (Ben Cross) is in charge of the official response to the bomb threats. By-the-book young lawman Mohideen (Patrick Rutnam) and anything-goes action hero wannabe Ranjan (Frederick-James Lobato) have different reactions to the unusual dilemma at hand.

Apparently not yet treated to a theatrical release anywhere, A Common Man heads direct-to-video in the United States and Canada on Tuesday from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The studio seems to have timed this to Kingsley's high-profile exposure as "The Mandarin" in Iron Man 3, which is faring better at the box office than any prior Marvel film but The Avengers.

The downside to that timing is that it puts this in uncomfortable proximity to the Boston Marathon bombings, a tragedy it's currently impossible not to think of in response to the common man's methods. You will easily be able to set aside any fears about exploiting terrorism for entertainment value by the film's end, but there are enough parallels in the set-up to make you cringe early on.

A Common Man is a remake of A Wednesday, a 2008 Indian film written and directed by Neeraj Pandey, which wields an impressive 8.1 average IMDb user rating, compared to Common's lowly early average of 4.8.

VIDEO and AUDIO

A Common Man appears in 1.78:1 widescreen and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound. This presentation suggests that Sri Lankan's film industry isn't quite on the same technical level as the US and European movies you may be more used to. The digital video is clean, but occasionally jerky and at times shot more like a hasty bonus feature on a cell phone than a feature film on a professional camera.

More troubling is the soundtrack, which is slightly but consistently out of sync for the entirety. Mouths sometimes move with no words coming out. Do they not record dialogue live in Sri Lanka, as they didn't on the spaghetti westerns of yore? A reasonable theory is that some of the local actors might not have had the best English and therefore required post-production dubbing, but there's something off even for Kingsley and Cross. It's a little annoying. So is the complete lack of subtitles (and, of course, closed captioning). That's uncharacteristic for Anchor Bay, suggesting this was a rushed release or one that the Asian producers failed to provide such basic material for. If that was meant to minimize piracy abroad, a quick Internet search reveals both subtitles and Blu-ray rips are somehow supposedly already online.

Artwork of Ben Kingsley's mug intended for movie posters becomes the simple menu screen for A Common Man's Blu-ray Disc.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

There are no bonus features at all. The disc opens with HD trailers for Chained and Pawn.

The simple, unscored, static menu is the above image of Kingsley (a poster design, not the cover art) with your only options being "Play" and "Scene Selections." The disc supports bookmarks, but does not resume playback.

The unslipcovered eco-friendly keepcase includes a sheet of coupons offering $2 off the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Killing Them Softly, Seeking Justice, One in the Chamber, and The Son of No One through November 1, 2013.

Television reporter Dilky Thenuwara (Numaya Siriwardena) has mixed reactions about the role the bomber asks her to play. Can you hear me now? Ben Kingsley eludes authorities by using a rotation of cell phones and SIM Cards from the rooftop of a Colombo, Sri Lanka building.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

For the first hour of A Common Man, you'll be scratching your head, wondering what could have possessed Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley to make this cheap-looking Sri Lankan thriller.
A pivotal twist redeems the film to a pretty substantial degree. There are still a lot of problems with this unpolished production, but it does have more power and weight than your typical action B-movie.

Anchor Bay's Blu-ray disappoints both for its technical woes and its complete lack of anything but the film itself (even subtitles!). Nonetheless, it's safe to say that this movie will not be getting a better release anytime soon, so it's up to you if the content and performances sound interesting enough to overlook the presentation's weaknesses.

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Reviewed May 14, 2013.



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