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The Numbers Station Blu-ray Review

The Numbers Station Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Numbers Station

Video Premiere: May 28, 2013 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Kasper Barfoed / Writer: F. Scott Frazier

Cast: John Cusack (Emerson Kent), Malin Akerman (Katherine), Liam Cunningham (Michael Gray), Richard Brake (Max), Bryan Dick (David), Finbar Lynch (Michaels), Lucy Griffiths (Meredith), Joey Ansah (Derne), Victor Gardener (Fisher), Joe Montana (Jeremy Fletcher)

2.40:1 Widescreen, 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25) / Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Suggested Retail Price: $11.99 (Reduced from $29.97)
Also available on DVD ($27.97 $14.98 SRP)

Buy The Numbers Station from Amazon: Blu-ray DVD

Has John Cusack suddenly become a direct-to-video actor after thirty years of frequently headlining theatrical releases? It sure looks like it, with The Numbers Station becoming the second straight Cusack film to receive that fate.
Technically, it was released in a handful of US theaters (concurrent to its On Demand debut) in late April, but not enough to even accrue an official box record. There's nothing eccentric or challenging about this United Kingdom-produced action thriller to explain its lack of a big screen engagement either.

Cusack plays Emerson Kent, a veteran CIA black ops agent who has grown weary of his deadly field work. Following the required killing of a teenage girl witness, Emerson is transferred to Suffolk, England for less taxing work. There, he is partnered with Katherine (Malin Akerman), a civilian who broadcasts numbers that European field agents decrypt to determine the location of their next assignment. Opening text screens unconvincingly explain that, despite government denials, this is a real protocol covert intelligence agencies have used since World War II.

Emerson Kent (John Cusack) and Katherine (Malin Akerman) sense something is wrong at their workplace in "The Numbers Station."

Emerson and Katherine are surprised to find that intruders have attacked the duo that works another shift.
Emerson receives a call claiming that the codes have been compromised and that he is to "retire" his broadcaster. While the aversion to violence that he has developed gives him pause, that is a good thing as it allows him and Katherine time to unravel the risky real situation confronting their ordinarily highly secured workplace.

The Numbers Station is as generic as its standard action movie template cover art suggests. It's economical filmmaking, taking place almost entirely in one dark bunker. It's also vague and plodding, as much time passes without us having a clear sense of what's going on. Cusack and Akerman have no chemistry together and while the film doesn't couple them romantically, it does ask us to buy them as a more complicated team than it develops them to be. We're meant to be kept guessing as to whether Emerson still has his cold-blooded instincts and whether the friendly Katherine is as sincere as she seems. But really, who cares when neither is given a single human characteristic?

This film marks the English language debut of director Kasper Barfoed, who hasn't yet made a name for himself in his native Denmark. It is also the screenwriting debut of F. Scott Frazier, a man whose four prior IMDb credits stem from video games like Tetris Evolution and Fairly Odd Parents: Breakin da Rules. Neither the helmer nor the scribe seize the opportunity to show their worth here, despite the exposure that having actors as famous as Cusack and Akerman should give this.

Barely a month after premiering on demand and in select theaters, The Numbers Station hits DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday from RLJ Entertainment.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Numbers Station sports a pretty good Blu-ray transfer. The 2.40:1 picture is more grainy and splotchy than you would expect a brand new film to be, but it is otherwise clean and sharp. Detail is just okay in the film's predominantly dark palette.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is very strong, commanding notice with its infrequent action effects. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are supplied.

A beanie keeps John Cusack's head warm as he speaks in "The Making of 'The Numbers Station.'" John Cusack doesn't know how he feels about those audio quality and distortion levels on The Numbers Station's Blu-ray menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Numbers Station is joined by only a making-of featurette (14:26, HD).
This standard piece finds producer Sean Furst and his two leads talking up the project and shedding some appropriate light on the plot and characters. Furst explains finding European funding and gets your attention with a closing remark that this could be remembered at the end of the year. Not likely.

The disc opens with seven minutes of HD trailers for The Tall Man, Day of the Falcon, and The Double.

The menu plays clips in some open space left by a reformatting of the cover art. This Region A disc does not support bookmarks.

Holding no inserts, the side-snapped keepcase is topped by an embossed, foil slipcover.

John Cusack plays Emerson Kent, a veteran CIA black ops agent with a troubled conscience. Malin Akerman is Katherine, a civilian "broadcaster" of encrypted number codes.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Numbers Station is as forgettable as it looks, numbing you with its vague story unfolding in darkness. After demonstrating extraordinary longevity as a leading man, John Cusack has a career that is starting to shape up like a less productive version of Nicolas Cage's (with whom he'll soon reteam in another generic-looking thriller). The volatile Cage at least provides outbursts and the strong possibility of comedic value. Cusack seems just as bored here as viewers will be. With adequate picture and sound and an okay making-of featurette, the Blu-ray is fine, but the same cannot be said for the movie it holds.

Buy The Numbers Station from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD

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Reviewed May 21, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 RLJ Entertainment, Content Media Corporation, Echo Lake Entertainment, Picadilly Pictures,
Matador Pictures, Atlantic Swiss Productions, Blue Lake Media Fund, and Furst Films. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.