What would a fun TV show be without its very own movie spin-off? And, more importantly, what kind of fools would cast a cult movie icon like Bruce Campbell and not award him the opportunity of hamming it up in his very own feature-length special? Fortunately, the folks behind Burn Notice were neither fools to the fact that they had a devoted fan base in Bruce Campbell fans, nor were they blind to the idea of making a television prequel.
During the hiatus between Burn Notice’s fourth and fifth seasons, the writers of the hit USA series decided “Aw, what the heck!” and penned a story that would finally give their faithful viewers a chance to see what sorry bit of bad luck landed poor Sam Axe in Miami once and for all.
The story, set way back in the near-Paleolithic days of 2005, focuses on Axe’s final mission as a Navy SEAL. After being caught in the sack with a commanding officer’s wife, Sam (Bruce Campbell) is sent to Latin America on a wild goose chase of a mission by his vengeful chief. The story is told in flashback as Sam recounts the details of his operation to a military court; Sam was sent to Colombia to uncover some information about a terrorist group known as the “Espada Ardiente.”
But, as he soon finds out, the Intel Sam received is all wrong — and those who are allegedly on his side are the actual villains. Thankfully, Axe’s inimitable way of making friends and winning over other people’s confidence comes in handy, as he assembles a motley crew of farmers, doctors, rebels and refugees to help him out as he puts the pieces together and forms a new mission of his own.
Bruce Campbell is back in action here as he spouts one deliberately-corny line after another and busts some chops when it’s time to do so. The story is a thoroughly-entertaining one — one that you shouldn’t expect anything too wholeheartedly serious or meaningful from, I might add — and has a strong ‘80s TV vibe to it (lots of explosions and fights, but no real on-screen deaths).
Burn Notice’s regular star, Jeffrey Donovan, shows up in a cameo as Michael Westen, but spends the rest of the time behind the camera directing this feature-length funfest. Kiele Sanchez, the co-star of The Glades, shows up as Campbell’s “love” interest.
Making its home video debut, Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe shows up on Blu-ray and DVD in an extended version, presented in High Definition and in a stunning 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer. Framed in a 1.78:1 ratio, the TV movie shows off all of the lush jungle backgrounds of Bogota (where it was filmed) and the detail, colors and clarity are unbeatable.
The film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack also delivers, making all the booms and bangs fire off effectively, and bringing Campbell’s wisecracks out for all to hear. Optional subtitles are available in English (SDH), Spanish and French.
Special features for Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe start out with a lively and energetic audio commentary with Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan and writer/creator Matt Nix. Next up is a behind-the-scenes featurette entitled “The Fall of Jeffrey Donovan,” which is assembled in a joking manner to give the impression that Jeffrey Donovan has had a nervous breakdown and is holding all of his actors hostage. It’s good for a laugh, but isn’t something that you’d probably revisit. Finally, there are a few (short) deleted scenes and a (lengthy) clip from select cast and crew at Comic-Con 2010.
All in all, Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe is an enjoyable spin-off from an equally-fun television series. Fans of both the show and Bruce Campbell will want to add this to their collection.