Movie Title: "Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe"
Writer: Matt Nix
Director: Jeffrey Donovan
At the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, Commander Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) is escorted to an angry General overseeing his deposition of recent events. Asked to recount what led him to this point, Sam starts by relating his tryst with a woman named Donna (Chandra West), who turned out to be the wife of Admiral Maitland (Alex Fernandez). Although Sam escaped from the Admiral's house without being detected, Donna later confesses everything to her husband. In response, the Admiral ships out Sam on an assignment to Colombia to help the local authorities investigate a new terror group, “Espada Aroiente” or "The Flaming Sword."
Once in Colombia, Sam meets Commander Veracruz (Pedro Pascal) and his soldiers, who tell him Espada Aroiente is going to target a local medical clinic. However, the two doctors running the clinic, Ben Delaney (RonReaco Lee) and Amanda Maples (Kiele Sanchez) are skeptical about the threat and they tell Sam and the local soldiers to leave. Outside, a young girl named Beatriz (Ilza Rosario) is detained by the soldiers for trying to steal food before Sam orders her release. But she doesn't exactly appear to be grateful. That night at camp, Sam notices the soldiers going off on recon without him, so he sneaks away from his escort.
Sam catches up to the soldiers and he overhears Veracruz's plan to wipe out the clinic, kill Sam and blame it all on Espada Aroiente. He then returns to camp and fakes his own kidnapping before attempting to warn Ben and Amanda. They laugh off his story, but as Sam leaves, he encounters Beatriz again. She frantically tells him that Veracruz and his men are coming, spurring Sam to return to the clinic and force an evacuation. Further, he coerces Ben into helping him blow up the clinic to cover their escape. Now on the run from the soldiers, Beatriz offers to lead them to Espada Aroiente for assistance.
However, the so-called terrorist group is nothing more than a band of farmers led by an ex-soldier named Louis, who is greatly offended when Sam refers to the group as goat herders. Realizing that they won't be able to hold off Veracruz for long, Sam returns to the enemy soldiers and he pretends to have escaped from Espada Aroiente. He manages to alert Admiral Maitland to the situation with Veracruz's SAT phone, before leading Veracruz's forces in circles on hills. However, Veracruz eventually sees through Sam's ruse and attempts to force him to betray the location of the Espada Aroiente.
But before Sam can save himself, Beatriz does it for him and she returns him to the rebel camp. With Beatriz's help, Sam offers rudimentary training to Louis and his men that is mostly based around plans of retreat. Out of desperation, Sam hatches a plan to bring everyone to a CIA outpost 50 miles away. Along the way, Veracruz's forces ambush them. Barely escaping, Sam and his group find the outpost and the initially helpful CIA agents stationed there. Sam joins them on a helicopter to get more help, but as soon as they leave they reveal that they never had any intention of saving the people they left behind.
In anger, Sam forces the helicopter to return at gunpoint and he threatens the two agents to get them to call in for help. In the ensuing battle, Sam's forces run out of ammunition and Louis stays behind to cover their escape… dying in the process. Sam finally stalls for time as Veracruz moves in for the kill. They beat him savagely until U.S. military helicopters arrive and mow down Veracruz's men. The people are saved, but Sam reluctantly allows himself to be taken into custody. Back in the present, Sam is warned that he will be court marshaled.
Much to the General's surprise, Sam has a counteroffer. He reveals that he had Beatriz document the final attack with photographs. And since she eluded U.S. custody, she will release them to the press and reveal sensitive information if Sam and the rest of their friends are not released. Without any other real options, the General relents and Sam is given an honorable discharge. Now free to begin a new chapter in his life, Sam heads to Miami and happily checks out the beautiful American girls as soon as he gets off the plane.
I'm a huge fan of Bruce Campbell and "Burn Notice," so I'm happy to see that Sam Axe finally got his overdue chance to step out into a solo adventure. But given that the name of this film is "The Fall of Sam Axe," it kind of implied a darker story that it never really lives up to. It's still good and it clearly had a bigger budget than the weekly series. But this was essentially a two hour episode of "Burn Notice."
The opening minutes gave me some hope that it was going to go in a different direction. The sequence in which Sam and his escorts kept getting lost at the embassy was a great way to parody the dramatic versions of that scene that pop up in all military movies that feature court marshals. Likewise, it was nice surprise to see Jeffrey Donovan make a cameo appearance as Michael Westen, even if only briefly.
The location shooting in Columbia was impressive and Donovan did a good job as the director. And the buildup to Sam learning the truth about the mission was well done. But the script felt a little too safe. It didn't try to really give us an adventure that we would never see on the "Burn Notice" TV series. The weekly show is all about Sam, Michael, Fiona, Jesse, etc… finding someone deserving who needs help that only they can supply, A-Team style. And "The Fall of Sam Axe" stayed with that formula. It's hard to fault Matt Nix for sticking with something that clearly works for him, but it was disappointing that the movie didn't have grander ambitions as a stand alone piece.
RonReaco Lee was the standout actor on "The Good Guys," however his turn here as Dr. Ben was extremely underdeveloped. Kiele Sanchez's Amanda had a little bit more to do as Sam's would-be love interest, but their chemistry wasn't that good either. The only relationship that really resonated here was Sam's surrogate father/daughter dynamic with Beatriz. Even with the bickering, they got on so well that I half expected Sam to adopt her. Of the supporting cast introduced here, I'd like to see Beatriz resurface in the new season of "Burn Notice." Although her lack of aging would be kind of hard to explain…
Despite my issues with the film, Bruce Campbell still makes it fun to watch Sam in action. In fact, I still think that Sam could hold his own series if it ever came to that.
And if nothing else, "The Fall of Sam Axe" was nice reminder that the new season of "Burn Notice" is just a few months away.
Crave Online Rating: 7.5 out of 10.