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DVD Review

DVD cover

Echelon Conspiracy


Starring: Shane West, Edward Burns, Ving Rhames, Jonathan Pryce and Martin Sheen
Universal Pictures
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 12
Available 04 October 2010

What would you do if an anonymous donor sent you a mobile phone which offers you both life saving and moneymaking tips? If you’re Max Peterson, you take the next safe flight to Prague to make a bundle at a casino. But there is no such thing as a free lunch and Max’s run of good luck comes to the attention of both the casino’s owners and the NSA who are trying to figure out who is using their Echelon computer to send him messages, especially as the previous five recipients have all ended up dead...

Echelon Conspiracy (2009 - 1 hr, 41 min, 19 sec) is a thriller directed by Greg Marcks. The film was originally slated to be shown in cinemas, but eventually it was screened in only a few theatres before it went straight to DVD. If you think of it as a straight to DVD film, this b-movie isn’t all bad, with some nice location work in Bangkok, Moscow and Prague.

Shane West plays our hero who gets sent a mysterious phone. At first he thinks that the text that he is getting are some sort of elaborate joke, until the phone tells him not to get on his flight home, a flight which subsequently crashes. Having saved his life the text messages send him money making tips. Although he does not immediately believe the information, finally he gives in and starts winning big at blackjack. At this point the film introduces Martin Sheen as the head of the NSA, Jonathan Pryce as the casino's owner and boss of John Reed, played by Edward Burns. Next throw in Special Agent Dave Grant (Ving Rhames) and a pointless Zen like Russian subplot and you have all the ingredients for making a so-so thriller.

It’s an easy film to like, but for all the wrong reasons. The acting is okay, but the script is peppered not only with some awful clichés, but also chunks of other films, including an ending which is a mixture of Wargames (1983) and Captain Kirk’s ability to talk computers into turning themselves off. There are too many characters who add so little to the plot that they may as well not have appeared, this is especially true of Pryce who, good actor though he is, if his character had never appeared in the film you wouldn’t have missed him.

The basic premise of a computer which is fed so much information that it achieves sentience has some interest, even if it has been used since the nineteen seventies; many films have found their own take on this. The overall problem with the film is that it has so few original ideas of its own and some of the more interesting bits have already been done and done better. It’s also not going to help the film that, although it went into production before Eagle Eye (2008), the similarities between the films and the fact that Eagle Eye had Stephen Spielberg on board means that Echelon will always come off second best.

The picture is slightly grainy, but with good colour tones. Audio is either English or Italian with subtitles for both. The DVD does come with extras, this time imaginatively titled Featurette 1, 2, 3 and 4. Featurette 1 (1 min, 01 sec) is a trailer really, as are the following three, all of which last less than a minute.

Taken as a major feature the faults of the film far outweigh any good it’s trying to do, but taken as a straight to DVD no brainer, to watch with a beer and a few mates, it’s not so bad. At least it stole from the best.


Charles Packer

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