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Daniel Ragussis
Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Sam Trammell
Writing Credits:
Daniel Ragussis, Michael German

A young FBI agent goes undercover as a white supremacist.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 11/1/2016

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Daniel Ragussis and Writer Michael German
• “Living Undercover” Featurette
• “Making Imperium” Featurette
• Cast/Crew Interviews
• Trailer and Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Imperium [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 25, 2016)

Daniel Radcliffe continues his post-Harry Potter career with 2016’s Imperium. When an organization illegally obtains radioactive materials, the authorities take notice and seek to stop the potential use of these compounds for terrorist purposes.

This leads FBI Agent Nate Foster (Radcliffe) on an assignment. The young G-Man needs to infiltrate a white supremacist group to discover if they have the materials in question – and if so, to stop them from the use of a “dirty bomb”.

Of all the Potter kids, Radcliffe impressed me the most. Based on his work in the first couple of films, I thought he lacked much talent or charisma, but as the series progressed, he developed into arguably the strongest actor of the bunch.

Radcliffe continues to surprise with his life after Potter, as he doesn’t seem oriented toward more blockbusters. Sure, Radcliffe shows up in occasional movies that shoot for the mass multiplex audience, though without a ton of success in that regard.

Actually, 2012’s Woman in Black made money, but more recent efforts like 2015’s Victor Frankenstein and 2016’s Now You See Me 2 either bombed or underperformed.

Radcliffe seems happy to go off the beaten path, which leads to appearances in off-kilter projects like 2016’s Swiss Army Man. Imperium falls somewhere between these two polls. While I doubt any involved felt it’d make big bucks, it doesn’t exactly feel “art house” like the oddball Swiss Army Man.

As much as I admire Radcliffe’s willingness to take chances, I can’t find a ton to love about Imperium. On the surface, it sounds like an intriguing tale. Sure, its view of an undercover officer doesn’t seem especially original, but the bones of the piece boast good potential for drama.

Unfortunately, Imperium too often feels like a lecture. A lot of the movie devotes itself to a basic discussion of “white power” ideologies, beliefs and conspiracy theories. We need some of that, but we find far too much of it, and the film frequently comes across like a civics lesson more than a real narrative.

That stretches to the depiction of characters as well. While we get a lot of the usual thugs and dirtbags, Imperium also ensures that we see the more benign bigots, mainly from a seemingly nice suburban family that decorates cupcakes with swastikas and builds a tree house so the kids can hide from the “mud people”.

Does this material add a useful viewpoint? Sure – it’s important to see that supposedly “nice people” can be just as hateful as the usual deplorable suspects. I think the movie relies on these elements more for shock value/educational purposes than to advance the story, though, so a lot of the movie feels pedantic.

The narrative itself remains pretty standard issue. We get the undercover agent who experiences predictable threats and we don’t find a whole lot of surprises. Much of the tale proceeds as expected and we fail to locate many curveballs.

Imperium does feature a good cast, and Radcliffe does reasonably well in the role. He struggles with an attempt at a credible American accent, though, and that hamstrings his work to a degree – his speech patterns feel so unconvincing that it becomes more difficult to buy his character as a whole. Still, he usually pulls off the part acceptably well, and his co-stars do fine.

The movie does manage to build to a fairly good climax – and a believable one as well. Imperium avoids the usual thriller clichés in that regard, so don’t expect a ticking time bomb or any cheesy attempts at tension. Matters evolve in a moderately suspenseful way but they feel more like part of the real world.

As much as I want to like Imperium, the end result seems too much like a classroom lesson for it to really appeal to me. Parts of it offer intrigue and drama but the overall package leaves me somewhat cold.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Imperium appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a good but erratic presentation.

Sharpness was the primary weak link, as some interiors seemed oddly soft. Those didn’t pop up often, though, so most of the movie showed positive delineation. No issues with shimmering or jaggies appeared, and I saw no print flaws.

In terms of palette, Imperium emphasized a mix of teal and amber. This was a restricted palette, but the Blu-ray reproduced it as intended. Blacks were dark and deep, while low-light shots appeared clear and smooth. Though often appealing, the sporadic soft sequences made this a “B-“.

With its character focus, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack lacked much breadth. Music showed nice stereo presence, but effects didn’t add much to the package. Some ambient material appeared and that was about it.

Audio quality satisfied. Speech appeared concise and distinctive, and music sounded full and peppy. Though effects remained restrained, they seemed accurate enough. This turned into an acceptable track.

A smattering of extras fill out the package, and we start with an auudio commentary from writer/director Daniel Ragussis and writer Michael German. Both sit together for this running look at story and characters, with an emphasis on German’s experiences as an FBI agent and aspects of the racist movements depicted.

This means one shouldn’t expect to learn much about the movie’s creation, as Ragussis and German rarely discuss filmmaking specifics. Normally that might bother me, but given how much fascinating background we get, I don’t mind. The track offers a lot of great notes about undercover work and the organizations depicted, so it becomes a fascinating listen.

With the 18-minute, 37-second Making Imperium, we hear from Ragussis, German, and actors Daniel Radcliffe, Sam Trammell, and Tracy Letts. The featurette looks at story/characters, research, cast and performances, and the current climate for white supremacist and/or terrorist groups. Some of the material related to German repeats from the commentary, but “Making” brings out good new info and seems meatier than expected.

Next comes Living Undercover. It lasts three minutes, 44 seconds and features Radcliffe and German. They discuss Radcliffe’s character and aspects of German’s career. Virtually all of the same comments pop up in “Making” so “Living” feels superfluous.

Cast and Crew Interviews split into five areas. We find “Times Talks with Daniel Ragussis and Daniel Radcliffe – Part 1” (28:46) and “Part 2” (28:29) as well as sequences with Radcliffe (6:16), Trammell (10:39) and German (30:12).

I’m unclear why the disc splits “Time Talks” into two segments – they’re both from the same panel – but I feel satisfied with the result. Ragussis and Radcliffe talk about research, characters/story, and other aspects of the shoot in a rich, convincing manner. “Talks” also becomes the only place on the disc where subjects directly mention Harry Potter – and indirectly allude to Donald Trump.

As for the three interview clips, these come from the same sessions that form the prior featurettes. Radcliffe and Trammell focus on research, characters and performances, while German covers his FBI career and aspects of his work on the film. Of these, German’s fares best, as he continues to present fascinating insights.

The disc opens with ads for American Pastoral, Blood Father, Manhattan Night, Misconduct and Green Room. We also get a trailer for Imperium.

As a thriller, Imperium occasionally hits the right notes. However, too much of the movie seems flat and pedantic. The Blu-ray offers decent picture and audio along with a nice set of supplements. Imperium only occasionally stirs to life.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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