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Imperium Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Imperium (2016) movie poster Imperium

Theatrical Release: August 18, 2016 / Running Time: 109 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Daniel Ragussis / Writers: Daniel Ragussis (screenplay), Michael German (story)

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Nate Foster), Toni Collette (Angela Zamparo), Tracy Letts (Dallas Wolf/), Sam Trammell (Gerry Conway), Nestor Carbonell (Tom Hernandez), Chris Sullivan (Andrew Blackwell), Seth Numrich (Roy), Pawel Szajda (Vince Sargent), Devin Druid (Johnny), Burn Gorman (Morgan)

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Daniel Radcliffe's post-Harry Potter career has been defined by some bold choices. Three have been three commercial plays, which have either disappointed artistically (The Woman in Black), commercially (Now You See Me 2), or both (Victor Frankenstein).
Not surprisingly, Radcliffe's more daring roles -- including a man who sprouts devil horns in Horns and a magical farting corpse in Swiss Army Man -- have required more of a search to find. Imperium didn't even get anywhere near as wide a release as those two indies. This crime drama stars Radcliffe as an FBI agent who goes undercover as a white supremacist to expose terrorist plots within the different factions of the fanatical racist community.

"Inspired by real events", Imperium opens with an Adolf Hitler quote, before establishing Nate Foster as a nerdy outcast of a young FBI agent. He is not someone you expect to be picked for an important assignment, but that is just what veteran agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) does, inviting scoffs as she selects the rookie to infiltrate supremacist groups.

And infiltrate, young Nate does. He shaves his head, invents a backstory of military service in Iraq, and opens up a medical supplies store to make him an attractive resource for his ability to obtain chemical weapons. Able to think quickly and convince the scary men eying him suspiciously, Nate gets involved with the Aryan Brotherhood and with Dallas Wolf (Tracy Letts), a popular underground online broadcaster, whom he tries to set up for a fall.

In "Imperium", FBI agent Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe) goes undercover to infiltrate a White Supremacist group.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Imperium. It just fails to excite you with its procedural material. It's also not very fun to watch people spouting hate speech for two hours, as they repeatedly blame Jews and ethnic minorities for the world's problems.

Radcliffe is good. His American accent is on point and even though you've watched him grow up over the years,
you believe him as an FBI agent brave enough to place himself in dangerous situations with deadly, hateful men. The supporting cast, comprised of men you may kind of recognize, also serves the movie well. Too well in that they're all easy to hate. Collette is good in an uncharacteristic role that has her perpetually chewing both gum and scenery.

Imperium is a competent yet forgettable debut for Daniel Ragussis, who both directs and is alone credited with the screenplay, while Michael German, the former FBI agent who based this on his experiences, takes story credit.

Though it allegedly played in some theaters last August, Imperium generated no official box office record whatsoever. It is now on Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate, who includes a digital copy in each edition.

Imperium: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital ($19.98 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though Imperium won't technically wow anyone who watches movies on a regular basis, the Blu-ray's 2.40:1 transfer shouldn't raise any real concerns either. The picture is well-defined, clean, and relatively sharp throughout. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack gets the job done without you really noticing or appreciating it.

Daniel Radcliffe shaves his head on camera while "Making 'Imperium.'" Actor Sam Trammell offers more than ten minutes of comments in an interview that is also excerpted in the making-of featurettes.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Imperium's extras begin with an audio commentary by writer-director Daniel Ragussis and writer Michael German.
Having listened to this after watching everything else on the disc, I found the track to be dry. Though silence is kept to a minimum, neither man has much of interest to add to all the things they both share in the video supplements. If this is the first extra, it is the first of many you'll hear the cast and crew explaining they didn't want their hero to be a Jason Bourne type.

On the video front, where all is in HD, we begin with "Making Imperium" (18:37), which delves into the research of the worlds dramatized. It is a talky but substantive featurette.

The short featurette "Living Undercover" (3:44) is basically an abridged version of the previous piece if you don't want to spend as much time on Imperium bonus features.

Two Daniels -- actor Radcliffe and writer-director Ragussis -- speak at length in a one-hour TimesTalk interview panel. Daniel Radcliffe makes a troubled look on the Imperium Blu-ray menu.

Under Cast/Crew Interviews, we find five listings. First, there is a long New York TimesTalks interview with Daniel Ragussis and Daniel Radcliffe which is split into two parts (28:46 & 28:29). Conducted at the Times Center last August, the piece lets the Daniels talk at length and cover just about every base you can think of. Again, if you weren't crazy about the film, this is a lot of time to devote to hearing about its making.

The same section also holds extended interviews with Daniel Radcliffe (6:16), Sam Trammell (10:39), and writer Michael German (30:12),
who speaks about his experiences in the FBI that inspired this. These are the sessions from which the featurettes pull, so you've already heard some of the remarks if you've been watching the extras in order.

Imperium's extras conclude with its theatrical trailer (2:19), something that new movies often go without.

The disc-opening trailers promote American Pastoral, Blood Father, Manhattan Night, Misconduct, and Green Room.

The menu loops a montage of scratchy-filtered clips while score plays. The Blu-ray resumes playback.

Nate's gum-chewing supervisor at the FBI (Toni Collette) recommends "How to Win Friends and Influence People" as part of his undercover assignment.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Imperium seems to mean well, but it proves to be a difficult film to endure and appreciate. Lionsgate's Blu-ray has more bonus features than any sane person will want to wade through. If you're a really big Daniel Radcliffe fan, perhaps this merits a rental. Otherwise, it's a pass.

Buy Imperium from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD + Digital / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: The Sea of Trees The Infiltrator War Dogs Hands of Stone
Daniel Radcliffe: Swiss Army Man Horns Now You See Me 2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Toni Collette: The Way, Way Back Fright Night (2011) The Night Listener
Sicario Green Room Black Mass

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Reviewed November 26, 2016.



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