ECHELON CONSPIRACY on DVD & BLU-RAY

Called “a cyberspace thriller for the male action crowd” (The Hollywood Reporter), the edge-of-your-seat suspense ride ECHELON CONSPIRACY makes a breathtaking debut on DVD and Blu-ray July 21, 2009 from Paramount Home Entertainment.  Featuring an all-star cast including Shane West (A Walk to Remember), Edward Burns (Saving Private Ryan), Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) and Martin Sheen (The Departed), the high-tech action-thriller weaves an engrossing story of greed, intrigue and the price of national security.  Mysterious cell phone messages promise a young American engineer untold wealth — then make him the target of a deadly international plot.  Dangerous security operatives chase the engineer across the globe, while a powerful government official pursues a mysterious agenda that threatens the stability of the entire world.

Computer whiz kid Max Peterson (Shane West) receives a mysterious package prior to his departure from Bangkok and after another successful networking job. Inside the box is a mobile device that asks him to stay another day and cancel his flight. Believing it to be a hotel gimmick, he goes along with it, but later learns that the flight he would have been on crashed, killing all aboard. The device next asks him to buy a particular stock which, hours later, shoots up over 300% in value. After missing out on that tidbit, Max begins to take the fortunate-telling device more seriously, heading to Prague and subsequently winning millions by following its exact instructions in a casino. When casino security chief John Reed (Ed Burns) becomes suspicious of Max, he attempts to seize the young man for questioning but is beaten to the punch by FBI agent Dave Grant (Ving Rhames). Max soon finds himself in the middle of a technological conspiracy, at the center of it an advanced computer system known as “Echelon” that has becoming self-aware, constantly monitoring and influencing Max to do whatever it needs of him to complete its diabolical plan.

Echelon Conspiracy on Blu-ray begins unimaginatively by taking on that cold, steely blue appearance but later delivering a wider variety of colors and lighting schemes. Several outdoor shots throughout — whether in Bangkok, Prague, or Moscow — often deliver solid depth, fine detail, and a fabulous array of colors. Other shots take on a slightly more bland appearance. The inside of the Prague casino never looks all that convincing, and while awash in color, it takes on a decidedly warm appearance that highlights red and oranges considerably. Even a red dress sticks out like a sore thumb and looks so fake as to appear almost animated, like something out of The Spirit. On close examination, details sometimes don’t impress all that much; close-up shots of various objects, for instance the cardboard box in which Max discovers the mobile device, appear hazy, undefined, and soft. However, general objects that tend to look good in the better Blu-ray transfers, sidewalks, building façades, and clothing, do impress here. Flesh tones often veer towards a shade of red or orange. Blacks, too, are all over the map, ranging from solid to bright to drowning out detail. Echelon Conspiracy does feature a healthy dosage of film grain than generally gives a film-like look, but several other negatives throughout some of which are victims of poor production design.

Without an original bone in its celluloid body, Echelon Conspiracy can only hope to impress with creativity behind the camera and decent performances in front of it, but the film wallows in mediocre-to-poor production values, standard direction, a forgettable score, an unoriginal script that features dimwitted characters, and a sluggish pace. The movie strikes out at every turn; not one character is memorable nor does even one scene stand out, the result a movie that most are likely to forget an hour after the credits roll. Even the Blu-ray presentation fails to make much of an impression. The technical presentations muster up decent enough picture and sound, though at the expense of supplements. No extras, Echelon Conspiracy makes even for a questionable rental.

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