Set Up (US - BD RA)
Gabe is sad to report that 50 Cent isn't even close the worst thing about this film.
Three childhood friends map out a detailed heist of a local gangster named Biggs’ (Bruce Willis) wares. The otherwise clean getaway turns deadly when hothead Vincent (Ryan Phillippe) shots a handler in the head. Later, at the pay off, Vincent betrays the others by shooting them, and taking off with the goods (I wanna say they were diamonds?). But one of the trio, Sonny (Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson), survives the bullet, and seeks revenge on Vincent. Soon enough Biggs’ men (including Randy Couture) come looking for the goods (I’m pretty sure they’re diamonds), and give Sonny an offer he can’t refuse – help them, or die. Fortunately this gels with Sonny’s plans to avenge his fallen friend, and a new plan is hatched.
I’ve said it before, but I think this as good a time as any to reinstate my rules of straight to video/limited theatrical release in another country movies. Assuming the viewer has no anecdotal or enough critical recommendation, the following rules should be followed with only occasional expectation. Rule #1: If the film in question covers controversial subject matter, was refused an MPAA rating below NC-17, or is otherwise what would normally be considered an arthouse property the assumed quality cannot be immediately ascertained, and further investigation is required. Rule #2: If the film in question is a majority foreign financed production, especially one in a foreign language, the assumed quality cannot be immediately ascertained, and further investigation is required. Rule #3: If the film in question is a horror film than assumed quality almost always depends on the unique qualities of the film’s pitch, and further investigation may be required. Rule #4: If the film in question stars a recognizable, A-List, or high B-List actor it may be a passion project, quality cannot be immediately ascertained, and further investigation may be required. Rule #5: If the film in question stars more than one recognizable, A-List, or high B-List actor it is almost certainly a lack of sellable quality that kept the studio from releasing the film in theaters, and it should be avoided at all costs. Set Up stars two high B-List/low A-List actors in Ryan Phillippe and Bruce Willis, and was never released in theaters at all as far as I can ascertain.
Stunt coordinator-turned-director Mike Gunther has only made one other film, the MMA themed Beatdown, which I didn’t watched based on my terrible experiences with other movies staring MMA fighters. He’s not a bad action director. His camera moves with a purpose, his angles make sense, and he doesn’t over-cut or arbitrarily shake the camera in an effort to create a sense of confusion. The dumbest thing Gunther does, outside of co-writing such a lousy script with Mike Behrman, is cut himself out of even the slightest hint of an original voice by including outdated, Guy Ritchie style still of some of the characters, with a title. You saw the same thing in the Snatch trailers. This is especially dumb because up until these sudden stills Gunther’s tone is pretty mellow, not frantic enough for the stills to have any graphic impact. Outside of these, and his overuse of arbitrary crash zooms, Gunther tends to show promise as a director, and I certainly won’t be avoiding his future work.
…Assuming he’s not also working as writer. Set Up (or Setup, I’ve seen both titles used) is the kind of post-Tarantino dribble I might have expected a decade and a half ago, and is rife with clichés, a listless and thin storyline, and characters that are about as well rounded as a trapezoid. The dialogue consists mostly of racial slurs and curses that are spouted so awkwardly one assumes the actors are offended by their lines. And almost every one of these interactions are so stilted one would assume that the actors were digitally composited into the scene together. The film is quite short, yet scene after scene drags on full of unnecessary exposition and interactions (it was apparently based on a short, which likely holds the lack of narrative elements much better). Gunther and Behrman clearly love the genre, but their love doesn’t extend to original ideas, or a respect for the intricacies telling a story. Now I’m going to add an addendum to my rules right now. Rule #5: If the film in question stars Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson it should be avoided at all costs. The guy is a supernova of anti-talent. The last thing anyone should do is give him narration. Yet amazingly enough he’s possibly the strongest actor in the whole film. Phillippe confuses ‘dark and dramatic’ with aloof, and Willis (who isn’t in the film all that much) looks genuinely embarrassed while reading soliloquies about the extinction of newspapers (it’s topical, you see).
Set Up apes the all too common high contrast, desaturated palette look that more or less defines the cop action drama these days. It’s a cheap grab at grit and reality, but it works quite well for this 1080p, 2.40:1 transfer. The amazing 4K HD Red One camera system ensures that the image is clean and sharp, leading me to assume any minor problem is the fault of compression. The ultra simple palette extends to the costumes and vehicles as well. Occasionally warm amber scenes also come into play, usually in the guise of nighttime interiors (Gunther is signifying safety or something), and these feature nice, smooth transitions without losing the belovedly deep blacks. The nearly monochromatic daylight scenes are occasionally pocked with bright red additions, which pop sharply without haloes or bleeding. The problem with the high contrast look is that it takes skin tones, eyes and teeth to an uncomfortable extreme. There is a scene in the back of a black car where Willis looks like a floating head, and Jackson looks like a floating set of teeth. The lack of middle tones creates a bit of a flat look as well. Still, when there is enough light to make out textures and fine details things are given a royal and intricate treatment, relatively free of aliasing effects or blocking. The climax features some minor ghosting elements during Gunther’s overused crash zooms. There are a handful of establishing shots that don’t match the bulk of the film, leading me to believe they were taken from a stock source. These feature a similar colour timing, but the transfers only definitively blocky transitions, and quite a bit of edge-enhancement too.
This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is very well mixed, and incorporates all the channels with relative efficiency. The stereo and surround channels are put to work in quiet scenes with ambience like music, wind, moving vehicles, and incidental dialogue, all of which appear to come from the correct location. The more actiony scenes are highlighted with directional movement, like speeding cars, blasting gunshots, and abstract sounds that are meant to create the illusion of movement. The Newton Brothers’ synth for strings, super mellow score floats nicely throughout the channels, creating an immersive musical environment, and make good use of the LFE with nice, throbbing bass.
The extras begin with a mind-numbingly boring commentary track featuring director/co-writer Mike Gunther, and stunt coordinator Kyle Woods. This track briefly comes to life any time Woods has something to say about a scene (so any stunt heavy scene), but the bulk of this mostly silent track is devoted to brief praise of the on-screen actors, and, sigh, laughing at the jokes. The jokes one of the participants wrote. Woods really isn’t at fault, as he speaks about as much as one would expect the stunt coordinator to talk, but in better cases one would expect Gunther to cover the other bases. The only I learned, besides the fact that the actors are ‘fantastic’ (each and every one of them), is that the script was not finished by the time filming commenced, which answers so many questions. Oh, I also know what locations were used (‘This was actually shot in the Greyhound station, and this is the same house that we saw in that other shot at the beginning of the film’), which is, as I’m sure you assume, endlessly fascinating. No one comes across as mean, or conceited, or even stupid, but no one has anything interesting to say either.
‘Making Set Up’ (9:20, HD) includes interviews with director Gunther, and actors Jackson, and Randy Couture, along with a lot of raw, on-set action, and scenes from the film. Gunther’s summation of the film sadly features more character development than the film. ‘Inside the Gun Locker: The Weapons of Set Up’ (3:40, SD) features the prop master discussing the gun props, which he jokes are mostly used as blunt beating weapons instead of shooting weapons. Extras are completed with further interview footage with Gunther (12:30, HD), Jackson (8:30, HD) and Couture (3:40, HD), a trailer, and trailers for other Lionsgate releases.
Set Up is actually better than I’d thought it’d be based on the trailer, stars, and fact that it didn’t get a theatrical release anywhere (so far as I can tell), and it’s still pretty darn bad. Only 50 Cent’s biggest fans need apply, and I’m guessing most of them know to stay away from his film output at this point. The movie was shot using Red One cameras, and is super high contrast, so it looks very good in 1080p, and the DTS-HD soundtrack is plenty effective, but extras are bleak, including a brutal endurance test of a commentary track.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 20th September 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Director and Stunt Coordinator Commentary, Making Set Up, Inside the Gun Locker, Cast and Crew Interviews, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Mike Gunther
Cast: Bruce Willis, Ryan Phillippe, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, 50 Cent, Randy Couture
Genre: Action and Drama
Length: 85 minutes