Let’s see if you can follow any of this. Jesse Warren is a wannabe actor/director/gofer. He’s taking acting classes like a million other Hollywood hopefuls. During his classes he begins to write the “way cool” story about a character named Neil Bannen. As luck would have it, he runs into another aspiring star in Mark Gantt. Gantt appears to be exactly like the character in Warren’s fledgling script. So, he approaches his classmate and both agree that the story is “way cool”. They know someone at a major studio with more development money than good sense, a guy likely parking cars at The Hollywood Bowl these days. The script gets greenlit, and before you know it the a couple of B list actors along with other film students gather for what is described as an internet series that will also be cobbled together to form a feature film, direct to video, of course. Cut to a hapless reviewer who, as luck would have it, is not an aspiring Hollywood actor. He’s given an advance copy of that “way cool” film and sits down in his home theater to watch the movie. As the curtain falls, we find the reviewer sitting down to his computer terminal as he begins to type. He begins his review: “Let’s see if you can follow any of this. Jesse Warren is a …”
Sounds like it might be the plot of the new Sony direct to video release The Bannen Way. No such luck. That might have at least made an interesting comedy. Instead, the above isn’t quite the plot of the film. It isn’t exactly based on a true story. It IS a true story.
Neil Bannen (Gantt) is a small time con artist and thief. Life is very complicated for Bannen. His father (Ironside) is a high-ranking detective with the police. His uncle (Forster), Mr. B. is the head of the city’s crime family. His mother (Thayer) is dead, but that doesn’t stop her from giving him advice or listening to his problems. Mr. B. has a special box that, urban myth has it, contains something of incredible value. It has been stolen by The Mensch (Lerner). Mr. B wants it back. Bannen needs some fast money because he’s a couple hundred grand into a gambling debt with local hood Sonny Carr (Carr). So when Mr. B. asks him to retrieve his box for a cool million bucks, it seems like the perfect way out of his pending, potentially fatal, dilemma. Enter street thief Madison (Marcil) who attracts Bannen’s attention. Not that that’s particularly difficult, because Bannen has a weakness for the ladies. The two team up to retrieve the box. Only detective Dad wants Bannen to wear a wire and bring down Mr. B. Meanwhile, everybody wants the box. A series of nonsequiturs and predictable twists carry Bannen through this one last job to get his life back on track.
The film, or internet series, I can’t remember which, is populated by larger-than-life characters that look like caricatures from a bad Tarantino film. Take, for instance, a trio of assassins hired by The Mensch to protect the box. We have Stiletto (Ishibashi), an Asian killer who doesn’t speak but merely stares seriously while she tosses knives around, taking down an army of opponents. Then there’s Jailbait (Reeser) who dresses like a 17-year-old schoolgirl with a lollipop. She seduces her victims to get them into bed, where she pulls a horse tranquilizer out of her all-day sucker. Once her victim is paralyzed, she chops off certain offensive guy parts. Finally, there’s Bombshell (Davis), who prefers to kill from a distance with explosive devices. Of course, they’re played by hot chicks who don’t need to do a lot of acting. The film has more camp than Crystal Lake. After just ten minutes the film has exhausted about every cliché in the book. Then it finds about 100 more. The acting is pretty bad. Even Michael Ironside appears to be a touch embarrassed to be playing in this one. You can see it in his eyes. He’s got only one thing on his mind: “I sure as Hell hope that check clears”. Vanessa Marcil shows us that her Las Vegas character, Marcie, is maybe the only character she knows how to play. Madison is exactly like Marcie in every possible way down to that stupid grin/laugh she gives when she’s cornered. The rest of the cast is made up mostly of students who need to study a little bit harder before they try anything like this again.
Warren throws every stylish, overused element into the film. There are those annoying screens that make 24 unwatchable for me. Bannen offers stupid little observations that are pretty obvious and add nothing to the value of the experience. Then there are those Bannen principles which sound like the Ferengi Rules Of Acquisition. It’s as if Warren thought he might never get another chance, so he put everything into this film he ever thought was cool. There are a lot of ingredients that taste great. It doesn’t mean you can just throw them into a pot and get anything remotely edible out of the concoction.
Bannen’s Way is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The movie looks like it has been completely sucked of any kind of life or color. It’s all very dark and shadowy, but without the benefit of solid black levels. This might have looked good on the internet, but it doesn’t translate well here. The compression artifact doesn’t really help it any.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is as dull as the image. You can hear the dialog fine, but there is no atmosphere or ambient life to this presentation.
Getting Behind The Bannen Way: (21:23) There are 6 sections to this feature that focus on: The Assassins, The Babes, The Girl, The Man, The Style and The Vision.
It’s quite possible this thing did better as an internet series with episodes that might have run about 10 minutes or so. In small doses, all of this stylish craziness and camp might be fine. Put it all together for 94 minutes, and it is an unmitigated disaster. Much of it feels like a video game. Bannen’s heists feel like playing Sly Cooper. He has a friend at the command center who lays out all of the steps of the heist like the turtle does in the game. All well and good, but video games are not spectator sports. I assume the webisodes are still out there. Might I suggest you seek them out and try a few minutes of this nonsense before even thinking about picking up this film. Take mine. “You can have it.”