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Film / Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe

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A prequel based off the popular series Burn Notice, highlighting Michael Westen's right hand man, Sam Axe. When the series started, all we knew was that Sam was retired and romancing Miami widows while drinking away his pension. We eventually learned that Sam's retirement was forced upon him and that the government does not look upon his military record with fondnessnote .

This is the full story of his last mission as an elite Navy Seal/Special Forces leader, set in Colombia.

Legendary badass Bruce Campbell plays Sam and Burn Notice star Jeffrey Donovan serves as director.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Sam at one point says "Very Groovy." His nickname among the Flaming Sword soldiers is "The Chin". Also, the chainsaw. He also holds up a gun in a triumphant stance, much like the "This is my boomstick!" scene. Not to mention the scene where he throws a freakin' chainsaw.
  • Artistic License – Military: Everyone calls Sam "soldier". That's understandable for the civilians (and he protests once or twice), but not at all for his tribunal. Sam's in the navy. He's a sailor, or a seaman, and they would call him that, or by his rank.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Sam wonders why Beatríz is working with the Espada Ardiente, because most girls her age are into makeup and shopping malls.
    Beatríz: Do you see any shopping malls around here?
    Sam: No, you blindfolded me, remember?
  • Bad Boss:
    • The plot gets kicked off when Sam accidentally sleeps with an admiral's wife (the sex part was intentional, not the her being an admiral's wife part) and the man retaliates by sending him to Colombia with an unclear, long-term, crap assignment.
    • Earlier, when Sam faked his own kidnapping, Veracruz shot the soldier who was standing guard at the time to make the report look good, as well as punishment for letting Sam get away.
    • Veracruz, when Sam escapes. He grabs one of his men and hurls him off the hilltop they're standing on in a fit of rage.
  • Banana Republic: Taking place in Colombia
  • Batman Gambit: Sam pulls one out to avoid military jail time after everything he pulled. Beatriz takes a lot of photos of the Last Stand and spreads the story to the Columbian newspapers. Because Sam's name and face was in a lot of them he used that as leverage to both get the charges dropped and full retirement benefits, as if the whole story is uncovered it would look good for Sam and bad for the military.
  • Big Damn Gunship: Things are looking grim for Sam near the end of the final battle until Colombian police helicopters finally show up.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Lampshaded, the characters even imply they are doing it out of tradition rather than having genuinely fallen for each other.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Beatriz doesn't entirely translate Sam's big speech to the Espada Ardiente correctly. When he says "I made some mistakes," she correctly translates this as "Yo cometí errores." He then says "you made some mistakes," which she translates as "y seguí cometiendo errores" — which means "and I continued making mistakes."
  • Bittersweet Ending: As the title suggests, Sam is forced out of the Navy and Luis dies protecting his friends. However, Veracruz and his men are arrested, Beatriz has become a reporter by the end, and Sam was able to receive his pension and other benefits instead of being court-martialed.
  • Call-Forward: Sam mentions to Michael that he wants to be taught some of that spy stuff sometime.
  • Chainsaw Good: Sam throws a chainsaw at one scene to distract the mooks while he and the good guys roll boulders on them.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Sam is a huge womanizer, but he draws the line at sleeping with married women and is horrified when he finds out he made such a mistake.
  • Combat Medic: Ben Delaney, who discovers that he's pretty adept at putting together and handling explosives.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Constantly dismissed by Sam. No matter how good their tactics were or how brave their men are, they were outgunned and outmanned and the only option was calling for help.
  • Continuity Cameo: Michael makes an appearance (with a beard, no less) along with a small reference to Fiona.
  • Continuity Drift: Minor example. In the pilot of Burn Notice Michael responded to Sam's name in a manner that implied a sort of "friendly with each other, but not close friends" dynamic as Michael was looking pretty deep to find anyone he could talk to (a part of the Opening Monologue). This movie said that during that time period they try to get a beer together anytime they are in the same city, they were always really close friends.
    • Possibly more of a case of "He's in town?" than an outright case of desperation. After all, the last time Michael saw Sam, Sam was still working with the government and going overseas. The fact that Sam is now retired (when he showed no signs of slowing down the last time they met) and just happens to be in Miami probably throws Michael for a bit.
  • Continuity Nod: Sam takes the name Chuck Finley to scare the CIA reinforcements into hurrying up to save them.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Excepting a brief cameo from Michael near the beginning, the entire film is completely centered around Sam.
  • Delayed Explosion: A gag delay when they blow up the clinic to cover their escape. Semi-justified considering their detonator appeared to be a TV remote and it didn't work until they had a direct line of sight.
  • Description Cut: Sam's superiors get upset when he explains that he gave some training to a terrorist group, and Sam replies he trained them on the level of a junior high football team. We cut away to Sam actually training them like they were a football team, specifically on how to approach a target and then run away.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Sam (slightly drunk) trying to explain his actions to his very pissed-off superior:
    Sam: Admiral sir, I was unaware that she was your significant other, sir...
    Adm. Maitland: You were unaware?! You're a Navy SEAL, trained in battlefield awareness, and you didn't see my name on the mailbox?!
    Sam: Well, sir, I wasn't exactly in that frame of mind when I was at your house. As you can imagine, I was otherwise occupied, sir... I'll stop talking now, sir.
  • Doomed by Canon: No matter the outcome, Sam is going to be forced out of the Navy by the end of film.
  • The Exit Is That Way: A wordless version happens to Sam and his escort at the start as they get lost on the way to his court martial.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Admiral Maitland lampshades the fact that Sam, a Navy Seal trained in battlefield awareness, didn't notice the admiral's name on the mailbox of his one night stand's house. Sam tries to defend himself by saying he was distracted by the time he was at the house, which doesn't help his case at all.
  • False Flag Operation: Veracruz plans to destroy a medical clinic and blame the rebels, using the attack as a justification for receiving greater US military aid.
  • Fanservice Extra: The lady wearing the backless sun dress at the Miami airport at the end, complete with an Aside Glance from Sam.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Veracruz is quite charming, but this turns out to be a facade hiding what a cold and ruthless monster he is.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We already know that Sam will survive the events of the movie, and that he will somehow get kicked out of the Navy. What's more egregious is during the debriefing, the interviewer pretty much gives away the fact that most of the characters survive.
  • Friend to All Children: While clearing out the clinic, Beatríz has trouble getting a child to hurry onto the truck. Sam steps in and, even with his limited Spanish, manages to charm the child and deliver her to her mother.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Sam speaks Spanish well enough, but even he admits he speaks on the level of a third grader. Thus the subtitles for his simple, broken Spanish is represented in simple, broken English "Tired. Much tired."
  • Funny Foreigner: Sam gets to be one in Colombia. He's dressed in an absurd uniform, speaking broken Spanish, and stumbling around the jungle.
  • Gatling Good: The Colombian Police helicopters are armed with them
  • Hero of Another Story: While Sam is in Colombia, Michael is apparently doing his spy thing "somewhere sunny." That requires him to have a beard, apparently...
    • Considering what we know from the main series, Mikey's likely running ops in Afghanistan. Real U.S. spec-ops there who work with the indigs have to grow beards to be respected in the native villages.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Luis makes one to cover the Espada's retreat.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: Joked at, with Sam being given sky blue camo fatigues to walk around with in the Colombian jungle.
  • How We Got Here: The whole story is related by Sam as he is put into a military debriefing, using a voice over that isn't too far off the same tone that Michael uses in the show.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Despite knowing actual military tactics, when training combatants to survive on the battlefield, Sam Axe teaches the tactics are heavily based on team secrets of a football team. Supposedly this helped protect him from legal charges.
  • Indy Ploy: Sam invokes this trope several times
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Sam's last ditch ploy is to go out alone, unarmed, to try and buy time for reinforcements to arrive. All he can do is take a beating.
  • It's All My Fault: Beatriz says this when she reveals that she was the one who created the Espada, leading up to the film's events.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Sam remarks that Amanda, an international aid worker, has none of the sunny optimism he would expect from someone in her profession. Her reply is quiet but blistering:
    Only someone who isn't an aid worker could ask that. You get into this business because you want to make the world a better place, and it turns out that there's people out there who just want to make it worse, and we're outnumbered. By a lot.
  • La Résistance: The Espada are are ostensibly this, until it's subverted when Sam finds out that they're just a bunch of local farmers who were convinced by Beatriz to fight Veracruz. A lucky break gave them a key victory that convinced everyone from Veracruz to the US government that they were a mighty fighting force.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Sam's nickname in Colombia references Campbell's most famous attribute.
    • He doesn't get it, either.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Sam's Go-to Alias Chuck Finley was taken from the cover of a sports magazine.
  • Lover's Ledge: Happens to Sam after he is caught in bed with an admiral's wife.
  • MacGyvering: This is a Burn Notice! Sam and the doctor at the clinic have to put together bombs out of medical equipment and supplies. They both end up surprised at how good the doctor gets at improvising explosives.
  • Morality Pet: Beatriz to Sam.
  • Mundane Solution: When Sam asks for advice on how to deal with his sticky situation (i.e., finding out his girlfriend is married, to an admiral no less), Michael tells him to confess to the admiral immediately and explain that Sam didn't know who she was until things got out of hand. Sam rejects this advice, hoping for the "super-spy advice on how to keep this quiet." Michael says there isn't any:
    Michael: You remember that thing in Kiev with Misha? When he sold out the wetwork team on their way to Paris?
    Sam: Hell, yeah. What about it?
    Michael: That's the kind of secret that stays secret, because if it comes out, people get sent to Siberia. This will come out as soon as Maitland looks sideways at his wife.
  • Noodle Incident: Sam and Michael briefly reminisce about working together on a mission in Poland, as well as a botched job in Kiev that got an entire wetwork team killed.
  • No, You: Sam gets in a shouting match with one of the officers running his not-a-trial.
    Officer: You're talking to a superior officer!
    Sam: You're talking to a superior officer!
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Par for the course for Sam, both with Veracruz and with his interrogators.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Both the two CIA operatives found at the listening outpost, and the Admiral who sent Sam there to get him out of sight and out of mind. They balk at Sam's requests, but ultimately still take the situation seriously.
  • Paper Tiger: Sam is stunned to learn that the Espadia Ardiente terrorist group that Veracruz's men have been preparing to fight are actually a small group of goat-herding villagers armed with out-of-date hunting rifles. Amanda explains that the villagers fought back against Veracruz's men "and got lucky enough times to make Veracruz think they were a lot bigger than they were."
  • Pet the Dog: Sam specifically shows compassion to a girl the soldiers were roughing up for sneaking into camp when all she wanted was some food, and later when evacuating a clinic before the bad guys show up, he jokes with a terrified girl to get her to calm down and smile.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Or rather, Colombia.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Sam is sent to Colombia, only to help uncover a plot by a corrupt politician to steal US military aid and nearly causing an international incident.
  • Recap by Audit: The film uses the device of Sam Axe being interrogated by the United States military about his activities in Colombia; the damages that resulted; and everyone involved.
  • Rock Bottom: Right before the climax, Sam is giving a pep talk to the doctor. "Could be worse. Could be raining."
  • Rousing Speech: Given by Sam, interpreted by Beatriz.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Beatriz has an almost boyish appearance most of the movie, until the end when she is seen wearing a flattering yellow dress walking around Bogotá.
  • Shoot the Fuel Tank: Used for opening the climactic battle.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Those Two Guys: The two CIA guys in the outpost. They end up becoming recurring characters to replace Sam's FBI guys.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Okay, so the Espada group isn't exactly helpless being armed with hunting rifles but the twelve of them seem to react well enough to Sam's training on Football tactics.
    • Lampshaded by an earlier exchange between Sam and Michael:
      Sam: How smart can spies be, huh? You're always fighting on the side with no guns.
      Michael: There's certain rewards to fighting on the side with no guns.
  • Truth in Television: Graymail is a thing; threatening to release state secrets in order to manipulate the outcome of a legal proceeding.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Sam, mostly played for laughs. However, towards the end, he purposefully withholds some details so that he can successfully pull of his Batman Gambit.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Sam's reaction when he sees that the "Flaming Sword" is a bunch of goat herders with outdated guns.
    • Michael doesn't say these exact words, but his tone of voice makes it clear what he thinks of the situation Sam's gotten himself into.
    Michael: An admiral? It had to be an admiral's wife?

Alternative Title(s): The Fall Of Sam Axe