Review: Bruce Campbell solos in USA's 'Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe'
Prequel film doesn't live up to the potential
Not all sidekicks are created equal. Some eventually prove so popular or colorful that they eventually get their own solo spotlight, while others get stuck in the shadows of their famous partner. After a few decades, Robin got his own super-team and then his own title separate from what he does with Batman. On the other hand, there haven't been many efforts to detail the fictional standalone adventures of either Tonto, Dr. Watson or Art Garfunkel.
Sam Axe, the boozing, womanizing ex-Navy SEAL pal of "Burn Notice" hero Michael Westen, definitely fits the former category. If you had been at last summer's Comic-Con panel for the show - in which star Jeffrey Donovan stayed home so that Bruce Campbell could soak up his usual adulation from the fanboys and girls - you would think that "Burn Notice" was, in fact, largely about Sam, and that Michael and Fiona were the sidekicks.
It was at that Comic-Con panel that USA announced plans for "Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe," a prequel movie directed by Donovan, that airs Sunday night at 9, helping to bridge the gap between seasons of the popular spy show. The film tells the story of Sam's final SEAL mission in Colombia, and how trying to do the right thing turned him from a career military man into an unemployed Miami lounge lizard.
- Check out everything there is including photos, reviews, videos.
Well, yes and (unfortunately mostly) no.
Campbell's got the charisma and self-deprecating sense of humor to carry a whole film. We know that. But the Sam presented here isn't nearly as much fun as Campbell gets to be on the show. "Burn Notice" regularly treads a careful line between making him seem like a clown but also competent and loyal enough that Michael would repeately entrust his life to the guy. It's a tricky balance, but Campbell sells it. Here, Nix seems to want to treat Sam just a hair more seriously, and it throws that balance off.
Of course, that balance also relies on giving Campbell a bunch of strong actors playing well-rounded characters to play off of. Working without Gabrielle Anwar, Sharon Gless and (save for a brief early cameo) Donovan, and instead paired with a pair of flat, one-note characters played by RonReaco Lee and Kiele Sanchez, there's not a lot Campbell can do to keep things interesting.
Nor does it help that the storyline - involving corrupt military officials and an alleged Colombian terrorist group that may be something else entirely - doesn't have enough heft to carry 90 minutes of story (minus commercials). As a very special "Burn Notice" flashback episode of the usual length, it might be fine, but there came a point where I was checking my watch and powering through only out of professional obligation and affection for Campbell.
It's not terrible - just longer and not nearly as good as it could be - and there's some obligatory fan service both to the histories of both Sam Axe and Bruce Campbell. (Sam both uses a chainsaw and says "groovy.") So if you just miss the "Burn Notice" world, and/or are a Campbell die-hard who have Amazon alerts set up for when "Moontrap" and "Maniac Cop 2" are released on Blu-Ray, it's a decent way to pass that time.
But outside of one sequence near the end where Sam gets to enjoy one last moment of uniformed glory (hail to the king, baby!), none of it lives up to the excitement I felt as I sat in that huge Comic-Con ballroom and felt the wave of love for Campbell and Sam crest at this announcement.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
News From Our Partners
- Watch This: With Beavis And Butt-head Do America, Mike Judge skewered the idiocy of cinematic adventures Hear This: Destroy This Place shows how press releases can get it right Cannes Film Festival: Cannes 2013, Day Two: Iranian director Asghar Farhadi chases A Separation with another stunning drama
- How Far Will 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Boldly Go At Box Office? 'Star Trek Into Darkness': The Secret Behind The Mystery Villain 'Pacific Rim' Trailer Surfaces: Watch Now!
- The Telefile - The Most Heinous Person on Reality TV This Week The Telefile - Modern Family: The Best Lines of the Night The Telefile - Fall TV 2013: What's On When
- Justin Bieber vs. Austin Mahone – PopCrush Prom King of 2013, Round 3 Demi Lovato Sings Selena Gomez's Praises [Video] Oreo 'Wonderfilled' Ad – What's the Song?
- YESSSSSSS... Who Won 'American Idol' 2013? The Ultimate Office Blooper Reel
- Critics Consensus: Star Trek Into Darkness is Certified Fresh Red Carpet Roundup: Star Trek Into Darkness Edition Video Interviews with Katie Aselton & Lake Bell of Black Rock
- Christopher Nolan for James Bond Movie? Director Allegedly Courted to Direct Edward Furlong, 'Terminator 2' Star, Arrested Again Cannes 2013: $1M in Jewelry Stolen at Film Festival
- What to Watch This Weekend: The Season Finales of Nikita, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, and Family Guy Syfy Renews Warehouse 13 for a Fifth and Final Season What to Watch Tonight: The Office's Big Farewell and the Season Finales of TVD, Elementary, and Five More
Dwight gets married and the staff revisits the documentary in a lovely farewellThursday, May 16, 2013
Lecter becomes interested in a local killer, and Will begins hearing thingsThursday, May 16, 2013
A show that shouldn't have worked instead became a great, popular, influential oneThursday, May 16, 2013
Some experimenting, but mostly the same old, successful CBSWednesday, May 15, 2013