STUDIO: Sony Pictures
MSRP: $16.99
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
Behind-the-scenes featurette

The Pitch
A web series that feels like a TV show becomes a movie.

The Humans
Mark Gantt, Vanessa Marcil, Gabriel Tigerman, Michael Ironside, Robert Forster
Director: Jesse Warren
Writers: Mark Gantt, Jesse Warren

The Nutshell
Neal Bannen (Mark Gantt) is a con man and a roguish charmer of ladies. His father (Michael Ironside) is chief of police and his uncle (Robert Forster) is a mob boss. Bannen is trying to get out of the crime business, but he owes money to some nasty people, so when his uncle offers him a job, he has no choice but to take it. When Bannen crosses paths with a sexy pickpocket, Madison (Las Vegas’ Vanessa Marcil), he talks her into helping him on this one-last-job.

Whoa, Ironside, what is going on with your face? Is someone scanning you? Or just too much craft services? I kid, I kid. Cause I love.

The Lowdown
The Bannen Way was a Streamy Award winning web series produced by the Sony owned, which aired earlier this year in 5-6 minute chunks. Now here it is all cozily assembled as a feature. Viewed as a web series, The Bannen Way is an impressively ambitious piece of storytelling, both visually and narratively. Of course the reason it is impressive is because the bar is still pretty goddamn low when it comes to non-comedic web series. As a feature film, The Bannen Way doesn’t have much to offer when compared with other caper films.

The series/film looks great. Director Jesse Warren has a knack for Guy Ritchie-esque camerawork – swooshing pans, quick pull-ins – and light pacing, which suitably fits the Guy Ritchie-esque script that he and actor Mark Grantt have whipped up. The dialogue revels in detached, post-Tarantino comedic cool, though at a B- grade average, and the film’s main hook (which it gets a lot of mileage from) is the “Bannen Way,” which are a series of life lessons and rules to live by that Bannen learned from his grandfather and quotes to us in the film’s ongoing first-person narration; a bit like Zombieland‘s guidelines crossed with the Ferengi “rules of acquisition.”

“This is what you guys are fighting over? Dudes, seriously, you don’t not want to open this. This guy with pins in his head will appear and there will be chains and S&M demons everywhere, talking about “knowing your flesh.” It will not end well for you.”

We’ve got a typically colorful assemblage of criminals and lowlifes to work with here, often with quirky nicknames, like The Mensch  (Michael Lerner), an ex-rabbi who has become a porn-producing criminal kingpin, and a trio of sexy female assassins that each have their own signature quirky MO and suitably quirky nickname.

The film has a breezy and good-natured tone. It also has a solid cast. It is pretty hard to go wrong with Ironside and Forster. Grantt isn’t great as Bannen, but he also isn’t terrible by any means. His only problem is that Bannen, we are told/shown, is the fucking super duper smoothest coolest coolio there is, and Grantt doesn’t quite have the charm to 100% sell that. Marcil is actually better than her material, and while it is a little embarrassing at times to see Michael Lerner stuck as the Mensch (remember that brief period when Lerner was in good movies like Eight Men Out and Barton Fink?), he makes his character suitably unpleasant.

Really there is nothing wrong with The Bannen Way. It’s just formulaic. The Ritchie-esque crowded farce storyline and speedy pacing serves the film well, given that normally stitching together a web series into a feature is going to yield a bumpy narrative full of a zillion little cliffhanger moments. There is still a bit of this, but there is so much going on that it seems mostly natural. 

“I was nominated for an Oscar once!”

The Bannen Way has no real business being a movie. It has the tone of amiable fluff crime/action television, like Human Target or Burn Notice – replete with a small team of 20something tech-dorks assisting Bannen during his cons via an earpiece As a feature film it doesn’t have a lot of dramatic punch. This should be a TV show. Fortunately, if you’re curious to check it out, there is no need to watch it as a feature, as it is still available for free in web series form on Crackle.

The Package
Picture and sound are both solid. The behind-the-scenes feature is what it is, a behind-the-scene feature.

6.5 out of 10