Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 2nd, 2009
How do you like your eggs? Scrambled or easy over? Hitchcock despised eggs and thought they were absolutely disgusting, to the point of intentionally mutilating a plate in many of his films. What about Easter Eggs? No, I’m not talking about hidden features in your latest DVD or Blu-ray release. I’m talking those colored hardboiled variety left by a furry bunny during the Easter season. When I was a kid they came in all sizes and varieties, and even though I really don’t like hardboiled eggs all that much I was a whiz at finding the things, and I’d hoard them as if I suspected an approaching Armageddon and these babies might be the only food left for thousands of miles. Now the Russians. They knew a little something about their eggs, particularly the last two reigning monarchs in the famed Romanov Dynasty. They had consigned Easter Eggs from the world renowned jeweler Carl Faberge. These eggs were extraordinary examples of luxury and excess. They were adorned in precious metals and rare gems and stones. Two of these eggs play a vital role in the latest release from Revolution and First Look Studio’s The Code.
Gabriel Martin (Banderas) is a thief. In the middle of his latest job he is approached by Keith Ripley (Freeman), yet another world renowned thief. Ripley needs a partner for his latest heist. He has a buyer for two Faberge Eggs that are previously unknown and worth an estimated $40 million. The eggs are kept in a high end security vault by the appropriately named Romanov Company. Gabriel is reluctant to do the job but is eventually persuaded to join the effort. He’s helped in no small part to join by meeting Ripley’s goddaughter, Alex (Mitchell). They have an immediate attraction, much to the displeasure of the all business Ripley. Together they mastermind the heist.
What is The Code? I never quite figured it out since there is really no code in the film. The film was originally titled Thick As Thieves. It would have been a much better title. It’s your typical heist film and it has all of the necessary, but all too common elements. You have that one last big job. There’s the romantic interest that causes tension among the thieves. You have the potential for betrayal, and the cop who happens to always be just one step behind the crooks. Once the heist starts, the familiar elements continue. You get the sophisticated equipment to beat the state of the art security team. There’s the trick the security cameras routine. Of course, you know to expect those nail biting moments where the crooks just manage to deactivate a trap in just the nick of time. I doubt I’m giving anything away by telling you that there’s the typical twists and turns of trust and betrayal. The thieves are caught in a Russian mob situation that adds a bit more color to the film’s atmosphere. The heist is clever enough to maintain our interest, and it moves along at a pretty good clip until we reach an unnecessarily long coda that grinds the film to a complete halt for another 20 minutes after the climactic heist. Okay, maybe it’s not really 20 minutes, but it sure feels like it’s longer.
The cast works well here. Morgan Freeman has been cashing pretty large checks in his life by playing just this kind of a character. He’s all business. Somewhat soft spoken. He offers those Western-like pearls of wisdom and goes about his business matter of fact whether he’s putting on his shoes or stealing a $40 million dollar artifact. This is no stretch for the actor, but we don’t need it to be. That’s where perfect casting comes into play. Pick the right actor for the part and let him do his thing. Antonio Banderas has shed his sex symbol career for more serious roles as of late. He’s not near as good as Freeman here, but he develops just the right amount of chemistry to sell the pair on the job. When he’s not with Freeman he tends to bog the film down a bit, but together they are a good team for the movie. Robert Forster does an excellent job as the cop battling internal politics and invasive feds in order to catch Ripley. He’s just the right make for the seasoned cop on an Ahab-like obsession to bring his long time nemesis down. Radha Mitchell is overmatched as the goddaughter, Alex. Fortunately she is not used all that much. Finally there is some clever Russian casting as the mob guys, and the entire film carries a higher degree of realism than is typical for these kinds of movies
The Code is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. This is a pretty average transfer and high definition image. I was disappointed to see the bit rate average only around 23 mbps. There isn’t much else on the disc, so I’m not sure what the problem is, except that we’re talking a single layer 25 GB disc. Colors are relatively realistic but never jump off the screen. There are times the flesh tones appear a little dark, but that’s likely stylistic intent. Black levels are a little better than average. The print is clean.
The Dolby TrueHD Audio track does a terrific job as well. Again the word is natural realism. You get just enough dynamics to fill your theater with sound, but the mix never overdoes it or calls attention to itself. Dialog is clear, and that’s what drives the film. There are more than enough good sub moments which tend to really bring this film around at crucial times.
Cast Interviews: (7:54) SD Short sound bites from cast members and the director, who is pretty much making a story pitch.
Behind The Scenes: (16:21) This thing really is behind the scenes. There are no interviews or narrations. This is raw footage of a couple of scenes getting shot.
I didn’t love the film, but I did like it. There were enough somewhat new elements to the genre. The team is small, being only the two principals. The addition of the Russian mob elements added character and atmosphere. You go into this film with certain expectations, and I think it meets them all just fine. It has an almost direct to video quality that’s hard to mistake. There was an obvious budget limitation, but the film entertains, which is all I really expected anyway. You can say that it should have provided more, “But now who’s making assumptions?”