Robbing a bank can be a disaster for everyone concerned and that’s what the film Checkmate’s story really has to say. Not well-acted and loosely directed, the story actually needs explaining if you want to know what the script writer intended. For entertainment purposes it’s easier to just go with the film as a robbery gone badly. Now on DVD it may be more of a Redbox rental than something you want to own.
The film starts with the introduction of Elohim (Danny Glover) and his bodyguard Katana (Katrina Law) and Lu (Vinnie Jones) who are playing a game of chess with the prize being a Deed to Eternity. The two opponents have always been at odds with each other, but they have chosen this game to settle differences. In the meantime and after a quick introduction to a bank robbery in progress we meet the characters who are involved with the meat of the film. Leading a S.W.A.T. team is Captain Howard (Michael Paré) a no nonsense cop who makes all the decisions at the scene outside the bank.
In the bank are the thieves along with their hostages who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Robbing the bank are Joey (Johnny Messner) a ticking time bomb, Bones (Antwon Tanner) a disgruntled ex-con, and Ron (Zach Touchon) a young punk under the thumb of his brother Joey. The innocent bystanders include Allan Long (David Chisum) a father making the ultimate sacrifice for his dying son, Lauren Campbell (Mischa Barton) a pregnant woman about to give birth, and a mysterious woman named Sasha (Willa Ford). Also involved in the plot is Dyson (Sean Astin) a Priest with a strange way of dealing with death.
After a quick visual introduction to the characters the film flashes back to one day earlier. Director Timothy Woodward Jr. (Throwdown) does his best with the somewhat complicated script that thankfully is now on DVD. Following the story and the reasons for the placement of characters and the two chess players leveling off at the same time the robbery is taking place, may confuse his audience (If you are confused, look up Glover’s character name in google). With the fact that it’s on a DVD and can be replayed over and again those that want to find meaning between the two situations being played out simultaneously, will have a chance to go back to the beginning and put it all together. The story has three subplots with the Priest coming into the picture and providing some creative drama that gets sorted out in the end (unless you can figure it out as the film goes on).
Spoiling the plot are too many coincidences, predictabilities and absurdities along with substandard acting. Add to this the freewheeling directing that slows down the action, has set-ups to future scenes that are apparent and uses too many cut-aways in the midst of the action. A tighter film may have made a difference in the quality. Maybe if they had a bigger budget to allow for retakes to adjust acting errors, more time to shoot the film, and better fighting choreography it would have helped. Special effects are at a minimum and in one scene an explosion created to distract the police looks very rudimentary.
Checkmate has not been rated by the MPAA but contains abusive language, violence, drug use and sexuality. The same sex sexuality may be moot with the 21st century morals noticeably decaying, but the language is very abusive, insensitive and derogatory throughout the film. Be cautious when deciding to allow immature children see the film as it does have several scenes that are inappropriate.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Script and production values are sub-par. (D)
Specifications and additional video information:
Cast: Danny Glover , Vinnie Jones, Sean Astin, David Chisum, Michael Paré, Katrina Law, Johnny Messner, Antwon Tanner, Zach Touchon, Mischa Barton and Willa Ford
Director and writer: Timothy Woodward Jr.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated, contains abusive language, violence, drug use, sexuality,
Genre: Crime, Drama, Action
Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.
Video Release Date: September 8, 2015
Reviewed Format: DVD
Audio: Dolby 5.1 Surround
Video: Widescreen for 16×9 Television Screens
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Number of Discs: 1 Disc
Distributed by: Alchemy Films