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Blu-ray Review: The Echelon Conspiracy

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Sometimes watching a film one has to wonder how exactly the producers got so many name actors to be in such a bad movie.  Coming soon to Blu-ray (after an incredibly short stint in the theaters) is The Echelon Conspiracy, a movie with a big name cast and yet very little that might make it worthwhile. 

Ving Rhames, Ed Burns, Shane West, Jonathan Pryce, and Martin Sheen.  These are all pretty well known names, and seeing them as part of a single cast might make one think that the film was destined for, at the very least, a wide release, even if the release is during a slow period.  IMDb however notes that The Echelon Conspiracy only opened on 400 screens and doesn't even bother to track its take on any weekend besides its opening one.

The Greg Marcks (11:14) directed film features a nonsensical plot about a poor IT guy, Max Peterson (West), getting a next-generation phone in the mail while on a business trip.  Text messages start appearing on the phone which give Peterson all sorts of important information, handy things like the fact that the plane he is booked on is going to crash, what table to sit at in a casino, which slot machine to play, that sort of thing.  Who has given Peterson the phone?  He has no idea.  Why does he listen to the phone?  Goodness knows.  In fact, the entire first portion of the film really only features an incredibly perplexed Peterson wondering at all the strange things going on around him. 

Unfortunately for West, as Peterson is by himself and seemingly doesn't believe in talking when no one else is around, West is forced to play Peterson's confusion with a series of comically unfunny eyebrow raises, grimaces, and quizzical looks.  West, who has had far better moments in his career, simply isn't given a lot to go with here.

Over the course of Peterson's following the magical phones instructions he manages to run afoul of the head of security at a casino in Prague, a former FBI agent named John Reed (Burns).  Also following Peterson is current FBI agent Dave Grant (Rhames), who just happens to be the guy who gave Reed the old heave-ho from the FBI, something he did at the behest of the head of the NSA, Raymond Burke (Sheen).

As it turns out – as if anyone needs me to say this – there just may be a massive conspiracy taking place someone or something may be out to destroy the world, and Peterson plays an incredibly important part in that game.  Jonathan Pryce, however, doesn't.  Why exactly he appears as Reed's current boss, the owner of the casino and goodness knows how many other things is anyone's guess.

Eventually, things are made clear… well, as clear as things can be made in a movie that has a plot so foolish and impossible.  Taking any time to stop and think about what is actually taking place and the reasons for it will either result in one's being able to point out a half-dozen or so major plot flaws or simply cause one's head to explode.  The only question that may be worth asking about what takes place in the film is why exactly no Czechs live in Prague – only Russians, Brits, and Americans.  The movie doesn't, on any level, work.

The exact same thing can be said of the Blu-ray.  The movie is impossibly grainy at times, and the amount of digital noise present in some scenes is wholly distracting.  One might expect an imperfect print of a film that has been played in theaters a thousand times and is 30 years old, but The Echelon Conspiracy certainly ought to look better, ought to be cleaner, than it is.  The 5.1 channel TrueHD sound is also a disappointment.  Only occasionally do the bullets whizzing around make it to the rear speakers, forcing one to wonder where exactly the bullets disappear to.

As for special features, the Blu-ray release lacks any.  It is a truly bare bones affair.

The Echelon Conspiracy careens from one improbable and altogether ridiculous moment to the next, pausing only long enough for West to come up with another way to look bewildered (seriously, he has a lot of them).  It is a film which proves that even a cast full of very capable actors can't always rise above the material their given.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.