Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Our film, ‘The Bannen Way’, opens with our ‘hero’ Neal Bannen (Mark Gantt) sitting in his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, minding his own business while narrating to his audience about some stuff or another when he gets snatched up by some unsavory’s and dragged out into alley. Now style over substance is the order of the day for Director Jesse Warren’s film as our movie segues into a rapid fire series of split screens and fancy transition effects as Neal attempts to make his way back to where he wants his story to start, which will eventually lead us back to Neal in the process of getting his ass kicked in that alley and beyond.

Neal, by trade, is a Confidence Man. Neal also lives by set of rules, more or less, laid out for him by his late grandfather which he often fills us in on when the situation arises. Neal also has a way with the ladies as we observe him knocking them down with alarming frequency which also often gets Neal in trouble. But about Neal’s primary troubles… he owes super mean dancing loan shark Sonny (Ski Carr) 150 large. Neal has a gambling problem, in addition to alcohol issues which makes it difficult for him to build up enough of this money to pay back Sonny who it looks like wants to see Neal dead.

Neal also has some family problems. His uncle is big time mobster Mr. B (Robert Forrester) and Mr. B. has an offer for Neal to steal something of extreme value for him which will net Neal a cool million dollars. Neal’s father, Mr. B’s brother, is top cop Chief Bannen and not surprisingly the brothers really don’t get along all that well. In fact Chief Bannen would like to use Junior over there to turn states evidence against his brother. You see Neal got clipped for something a little earlier which would be his third strike and net him a cool quarter in the penitentiary. Doing this thing for his father would go a long way towards avoiding that unfortunate situation.

Then there’s the girl, Madison (Vanessa Marcil), a professional pick pocket who Neal is immediately drawn to even though she can’t be trusted as far as she could be thrown. Actually when I think about it I could probably throw the ninety five pound Vanessa Marcil pretty far so maybe another analogy is in order.

So here’s the deal:  Neal has to steal this thing for his uncle, from this pimp, with Madison’s help, with Sonny wanting this thing once it’s been stolen, and his old man wanting some evidence, as provided to him by his son, to put his baby brother away for a long time. Got it?  Got it.  Then it starts getting complicated.

So… I didn’t really like ‘The Bannen Way’ all much, being completely honest with you here, but my goodness is it a beautiful looking movie. Watching this thing on that Universal HD channel on my HDTV was truly something to behold with the colors and the images in this film literally popping off the screen. It looks fabulous. Doing a little research into this movie I see Cinematographer Roger Chingirian shot this movie on that fancy RED Camera I’ve heard so much about. So this is what images coming out of this camera look like. Of course it still takes a cinematographer with skills to get the most of whatever camera he or she is using but Roger Chingirian makes a strong case that others in his field might want to think about adopting this technology for their own future projects.

Back to ‘The Bannen Way’ the movie. This little research I did also revealed that this movie started out life as a web series on, a great place to catch some cool stuff by the way, and I’m almost positive I would’ve like this movie a lot more as a series of episodic shorts as opposed to the feature film I just got through watching. For instance the split screen transition pyrotechnics would’ve probably been cool after watching a six minute episode but kind of got a little tiresome after ninety plus minutes. Because of the episodic nature of the film there are characters all over this movie with hardly any of them, including Neal Bannen, having any kind of substance to them worth talking about. Again, this probably works wonders in a six minute segment but doesn’t work nearly as well in a feature film. But my main problem with this movie is that I didn’t like Neal Bannen. I know Neal was supposed to be one of those ‘charming, disarming’ type con men, like that cat in that TV show ‘White Collar’ But I wasn’t felling any of Neal’s charm. None. Neal is a self-serving, selfish asshole who takes advantage of people. It’s kind of hard to get behind a guy like that and I think to really get with this movie you have to get with Neal and kind of pull for Neal, at least a little bit, and Mark Gantt wasn’t able to pull this off for me. In fact when Sonny had Neal hemmed up, stretched out, threatening to kill him… I was okay with that. Sonny I liked. Yes, Sonny was a bad person and a murderer and all, but he was honest and honorable. His sour personality traits I could get with way better than I could get with Neal’s.

But the movie did look great, it moved like greased lightning which I’m guessing is also a byproduct of its episodic nature, there was a laundry list of impossibly beautiful women in this movie and Michael Ironside was in this movie. Can’t ever discount the Michael Ironside factor. Problem is I just didn’t like Bannen’s ways in ‘The Bannen Way’.

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