If you saw 'Echelon Conspiracy' in theaters, go ahead and give yourself a round of applause. All at once now, as loud as you can!
Did you hear that? I didn't either. That's because virtually nobody put down their hard earned money to see this flick in the one week it actually hit 400 theaters. About two-thirds of a million was made, and at ten bucks a head, that's barely above the number of viewers in a packed house at Yankee Stadium.
After viewing the film, the question I have is not as much "Why did so few people check it out?," as much as "How did this film even trick that many people into viewing it?"
Max Peterson (Shane West) is a computer security technician, setting up advanced systems for his clients to protect their information from hackers. While Peterson is on a job in Bangkok, he receives a mysterious package at his hotel room; a top of the line cell phone not yet available to the public. A cell phone that sends him little bits of advice, saving his life from a plane crash, and saving him money on his hotel stay, at the same time! Thanks, Mr. Cell Phone!
The psychic phone later directs Peterson to a casino, and what machines to hit for jackpots, what tables to hit for big wins. Naturally, Peterson handles himself like a complete noob jackass, and alerts security, headed by former FBI agent John Reed (Edward Burns). After evading the hotel security, Peterson is caught by FBI agent Dave Grant (Ving Rhames), and is questioned as to who gave him the phone and why. A conspiracy is afoot, and the few people before Peterson to get a phone in this manner all died soon after their life changing gift.
I have no problem saying I found 'Eagle Eye' to be an absolute piece of garbage. Having sat down to watch 'Echelon,' I feel somewhat duped. I didn't ever want to see 'Eagle Eye' again, and I just did. I saw a watered down, generic, cheap rip off of a watered down, generic rip off, with "only in it for the money" performances replacing an irritating LaBeouf performance.
Nothing in this film truly makes sense. Why an FBI agent has any authority in Prague is puzzling. Why Peterson even turned on a cell phone in a box from a sender he didn't even know, is purely beyond me. Why the hell would anyone accept a gift, in a hotel across the world, that could easily set one up for blackmail? It's not like the phone had a sticky note attached that said "Hacked Scarlet Johansson pictures inside. Hawt." Why would anyone listen to anonymous texts from a cell phone they just happened upon? How can a stolen delivery van outmaneuver an entire fleet of souped up government vehicles much akin to cop cars?
Originally dubbed 'The Gift,' another uninspired Paramount thriller, 'Echelon Conspiracy' has it all. Forced dialogue, unconvincing performances by actors who look bored, and nonsensical action sequences thrown in to try to keep the audience in their seats. West has about as much charisma as a corpse, which is somewhat fitting, as this film is much like a bloated corpse that washed up after being dumped of shore. It's fun to poke with a stick, but not very fun to look at.
'Echelon Conspiracy' may be a dud, but that doesn't mean it won't look good on Blu-ray. It looks quite good, actually. Paramount's AVC MPEG-4 encode does a good job of presenting the film in good ol' high def.
Contrast is sharp throughout. Colors are a bit overblown, while skin tones are noticeably hot, with an orangish red tint like the film was made in Miami in the summer over a four month period, sans sunscreen. Close up shots are quite sharp, while midrange moments also exhibit a strong level of detail and clarity, and backgrounds all maintain their composure, never dissolving into blobs or blurs. Black levels are decent, though delineation is quite poor, especially in darker interior sequences, when the shadows swallow up detail like Pac-man.
The grain level is a bit aggressive (though nowhere near as active as found in 'Burn Notice: Season Two'), though it doesn't hinder the picture, really. There were also some bright white flicks of dirt that would pop up on screen from time to time in close together clumps. Lastly, some shots show a strong pattern of digital noise that can be quite distracting, though they aren't all that frequent.
I'll admit it, I didn't go into this one with very high expectations. Honestly, due to the direct-to-video feel the movie had (despite actually bowing in theaters), I had virtually no hope for the sound side of this disc. I was quite satisfied with what I was given, though, in the disc's only audio track: a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix in the native English language.
From the opening scenes, I knew this was going to be a fairly solid track, with nice bits of directionality and movement on display, though I noticed a severe lack of appropriate bass. This would hold up through the rest of the track, with the LFE only really coming into play for a few bits of atmosphere, and a few smaller explosions. I'd think a sequence with a train rumbling past you within arms length would have had a bit of a roar, but hey, what do I know?
Dialogue was clear, though at times, was softer than the score, like the music were more important than a few pivotal scenes that define character motivations. Atmosphere is present and feels natural, while there were some good localized bits of gunfire that sounded appropriate (occasionally flat, but usually accompanied with a nice little pop). The high end was a little raspy, but all things considered, this is a far better sound mix than the film deserves.
'Echelon Conspiracy' is dropped somewhat unceremoniously by Paramount on Blu-ray, with no special features whatsoever. This may be a good thing, really, and saved me a small headache, but a barebones new release doesn't exactly scream confidence in the release by the studio.
The verdict for this one is identical to the treatment that moviegoers gave this film during it's brief theatrical run: Skip it. Good video and audio qualities do not justify a purchase when the film they present is as brain dead as 'Eagle Eye.' Paramount has treated 'Echelon Conspiracy' like an unwanted child with this release, hoping that we'll do them a favor and adopt their mistake. Probably best to set this special delivery in a basket and float it on down the river. "Bye, bye 'Echelon Conspiracy!' Bye, bye."