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Here we have the trailer for the upcoming crime drama Empire State. It's helmed by Dito Montiel, a scrappy writer-director who first won notice (not to mentioned launched the acting career of phenom Channing Tatum) with the 2006 New York City-set drama A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. His latest boasts an ensemble cast that includes 2013's MVP Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Hunger Games' Liam Hemsworth, Scream 4's Emma Roberts, Haywire's Michael Angarano, Entourage's Jerry Ferrara, and Twilight's Nikki Reed. And yet, it appears to be going straight to DVD. Notice the trailer above doesn't tease a release date.
The Film Stage drew our eye to this strange situation, pointing out Empire State's Blu-ray/DVD release is skipping a theatrical run and debuting on DVD and Blu-ray this fall. With the insane box office drawing power of Mr. Franchise Viagra alone this seems strange, but add to that the possible pull of two stars from wildly successful YA adaptions and it seems absolutely insane. For his part, The Rock has been dominating the box office this year, having starred in at least one film within the top ten grossing films of the week each weekend since February 22nd. That's 17 weekends in the top ten, and over $965 million dollars in box office revenue. He's a force of nature right now. While Hemsworth hasn't been proven to be a major draw on his own yet, it seems sensible that his pairing with Reed could pull in some nice crossover crowds. Still, Empire State heads straight to DVD, leaving us to wonder why.
As the film hasn't actually shown anywhere, we can only speculate to its quality. However straight-to-DVD is never a good sign, and the trailer up top certainly doesn't make it seem like a standout. The plot as presented above is nearly as indecipherable as some of the cast's attempted New York accents. The promo's best moment is an amusing cutaway to a license plate that reads "Massive 1" that dissolves over The Rock's chest before the trailer cuts to black. Other than that and a handful of actors we tend to rally for, this flick looks pretty forgettable from here.
In Empire State, Hemsworth plays a common schmo Chris Potamitis, who gives up on his dream of becoming a cop and takes a job at an armored car company. But when his partner gets killed in a heist gone wrong, he begins to consider moving to the other side of the law for a major payout. As he and his childhood pal (Angarano) plan the robbery of a lifetime, Potamitis is stalked by a brawny cop who smells trouble (Johnson). It seems a potentially engaging premise with a "based on real events" hook, so why no love from distributor Lionsgate? Especially when they've taken such care to groom Hemsworth's emerging star power, distributing The Hunger Games as well as Expendables 2?
Our guess is that Lionsgate looked at the totals of Montiel's last outing, Son of No One, and got cold feet. The film won a coveted premiere spot at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, but critics were quick to rip it apart. Bad reviews plagued it upon its theatrical release. Despite a cast that included Channing Tatum, Ray Liotta, Tracy Morgan, Juliette Binoche and Al Pacino, the $15 million dollar film made only $30 thousand at the box office. Perhaps Empire State didn't strike Lionsgate as enough of an improvement to waste funds on a theatrical release and all the costly print and advertising costs that entails. But you can decide for yourself if Empire State is worth your time and money when it his Blu-ray and DVD on September 3rd.