‘Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe’ Review and Discussion

Published 4 years ago by

burn notice fall of sam axe poster Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Review and Discussion

Bruce Campbell is one of the main reasons people tune-in to Burn Notice every week, and with just cause. The actor’s portrayal of Sam Axe, the beer swilling, womanizing ex-Navy Seal with a heart of gold is always fun to watch and has been a pleasant addition to Campbell’s already iconic status as a B-movie action star.

That’s why Burn Notice fans (like me) were so excited when Matt Nix announced the development of Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, a special prequel TV movie focusing on Sam’s last mission as a military officer. As Bruce Campbell said himself in our recent interview, Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe would offer Burn Notice fans something that was slightly different than usual, but still “familiar and fun.”

Of course, there’s such a thing as too familiar. In many respects, Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe plays like a 90-minute episode of Burn Notice, only with Bruce Campbell’s wry narration instead of Jeffrey Donovan’s. While the formula makes for a likable enough TV movie, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Still, Bruce Campbell does get to play with a chainsaw again, and that’s always fun.

Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe opens on Sam in his dress whites facing a formal investigation into a botched anti-terrorist operation in the Colombian jungle. Set in 2005, the movie presents us with a Sam that is somewhat different than usual (in that he answers “Yes sir” and “No sir”). For the most part though, it’s the same old Sam. Even when speaking with a commanding officer, Sam makes wisecracks, eyes the pretty stenographer, and asks for a cold beer. I somehow doubt a real military hearing would be quite so colorful, but that’s the beauty of Burn Notice.

Burn Notice Fall of Sam Axe Bruce Campbell Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Review and Discussion

Through a series of flashbacks, Sam explains what went wrong on his last mission. How Sam ended up on the mission in the first place is another story altogether, but one that is perfectly in keeping with the character. Anyway, without spoiling too much of the story, here’s the basic plot set up. Sam goes to Colombia for a joint operation with a Colombian military outfit to observe and report on a possible terrorist organization. While there, Sam meets a doctor and a foreign aid worker (the latter played by Lost‘s Kiele Sanchez) who are working at a clinic that might be the target of an attack.

Of course, after a bit of snooping around, Sam learns that there is more to the Colombian soldiers than he was led to believe, and the terrorist organization is anything but dangerous. Honoring Sam’s inherent nobility, which is one of the things that makes the character more than just a B-movie stereotype, the film chronicles Sam’s decision to defy military order to protect those in need. Along the way, some people die, lots of stuff blows up, and Sam hits on Kiele Sanchez.

As in every episode of Burn Notice, the clinic workers (whom we could easily call “The Clients”) are indifferent to Sam’s help until they have no choice in the matter. Also, like in regular Burn Notice episodes, The Fall of Sam Axe features lots of improvised escapes and fun build-a-bomb-out-of-nothing scenes. Despite the sameness of the action, however, there are numerous redeeming moments in the film.

For one thing, Matt Nix has done a great job – giving Sam plenty of zingers throughout the movie. For those of us only accustomed to hearing Sam five or six times an episode, it’s nice to see that the character is still consistently funny over the course of a 90-minute film. Likewise, it’s great to see Bruce Campbell back in action as a lead. The actor’s status as a B-movie idol is something that I suspect he both enjoys and loathes. Still, it’s built him a terrifically loyal fanbase, and I suspect that they will be happy with what they see in The Fall of Sam Axe.

burn notice bruce campbell sam axe movie Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Review and Discussion

Truthfully, I wasn’t blown away by Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, but I did enjoy the movie for what it was worth. (I should also note that I watched and reviewed a rough cut of the film, which likely detracted from the film’s overall quality. ) Should Matt Nix and the team decide to pursue any additional Burn Notice prequel movies, I suggest they think a little bit more outside of the box, so as to bring something new to the characters. All in all though, Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe is a serviceable addition to the franchise, and a great reminder of why we all love Bruce Campbell.

Burn Notice season 5 begins summer 2011 on USA

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. The Fall of Sam Axe constitutes the biggest 90 second disappointmnent in my 43 years of watching television. Sam Axe is wearing summer whites not dress whites. If Sam Axe is a full commander not a lieutenant commander, his combination cover (hat) should have scrambled eggs (gold braid) on the visor. His white uniform should have white shoes not black shoes. A Navy seal wears the seal bird with the crossed pistols pin not a surface warfare pin. These flargrant disregards for basic details insults the Navy seals, the United States Navy and all American armed forces.
    Who was your military consultant? If you did not have one, shame on you! If you did have a military consultant, they seriously let you down and need to be fired! This ignorant, incompetent 90 second display may have ruined “Burn Notice” for me. What a disappointment!

    PS Tell Fiona I say!

    • yep, and you forgot to mention the mis-matched colors on his cammies. White lettered name tape, gold lettered service tape. They both need to be either white (enlisted) or gold (chiefs, warrant officers, commissioned officers)

      • They also forgot to have Sam remove his cover indoors. Sailors also do not salute without their covers on. He also isn’t wearing his dress whites, they are his summer whites, as the dress whites include a white choker (jacket). Also the naval officers running the hearing should have insignia on their collars of their khakis. Also he isn’t wearing his cover on his cammies while outdoors, also the sleeves are improperly rolled up.

    • An insult to the navy ? Give me a break. Overreact much? It’s not an insult to the navy in any way what so ever. It got things wrong sure, but that’s not insulting. I was in the navy and in no way feel insulted by it. Then again I’m a (some what) rational human being. If you order food at mcdonalds and they accidentally put onions on your burger do you ask them to take it back and make a new one or do you give them a 5 minute lecture about how horrible they are and how insulted you are by their mistake ?

      They didn’t bad mouth the navy in any way so there is nothing insulting about it unless you just like to cry about things. They got a few details wrong if that’s a deal breaker for you fine and I can understand that, but insulting? Grow up.

      • For a show that puts A LOT of effort into being rather accurate in their portrayal of the spy world, I don’t think any of us complaining are asking for too much to have at least SOME of the aspects of the Navy and military in general to be accurate. Normally I’m fine with a few liberties taken by a director on tv shows that involve the military but this was just a hack job.

        • not to mention the binocular view in the movie. Ever looked through a binocular? there’s only one circle, not 2 like in the movie. they made these stupid mistakes in sixties and seventies movies, but we’re 2011 now people!

          • It’s not a mistake it’s done on purpose to push forward the point that it’s a Binocular. Other wise it just looks like it’s a camera. is that really what you are gonna get hung up on ? Got news for you it’s something that still happens in pretty much every film that ever shows a Binocular view not just this one.

      • Something on a pizza that wasnt supposed to be on it & luckily for me they caught it before eating it because there child had horrible allergic reactions to it. SIf you have a very severe allergy to onions or then yes i give them a lecture on how they need to pay more attention to what they are doing because they couldve killed you! I actually had a 10 minute azz chewing from my manager at Pizza Hut when i worked there in high school for that reason. I accidentally put

  2. Obvious uniform oversights here. Shame!

    Also, do all key women have to fit the same exact look in Burn Notice?
    Sunken cheekbones, almond eyes, overwhitened overbite, loose curls.
    Kiele Sanchez (aid worker here), and Carla (Michaels nemesis),
    and Michaels old fiance (Samantha), and a few others.
    This show is becoming a cartoon of stereotypes.

    Casting director has a fantasy girl!!

  3. Yup

    Totally sucked!! Love BN but this blew!!

  4. You people need to lighten up, the single most disappointing thing on tv in 43 years? Really? I guess you didn’t watch Lost.

    It was an enjoyable made for tv movie, with what seems like a decent budget, and stars the living legend Bruce Campbell.

    Any fan of Burn Notice and/or Bruce Campbell should find it enjoyable as well, Unless of course your a stickler for an accurate portrayal of military procedure and uniforms, like the commentors above me seem to be.

    • Ace: You don’t have to be a stickler about military protocal and uniforms to be distracted when this movie gets every single military reference wrong. One naval officer calling another one “Soldier”???

      One reason that we all like Sam Axe on Burn Notice is that he seems to be a total professional who got screwed by the system. And no one is as big a cult fan of Bruce Campbell as I am. But a professional military officer wears his uniforms correctly. Throughout this whole movie I kept expecting some explanation for why he was always dressed wrong (i.e. luggage was lost by the airline, someone played a prank on him, girlfriend burned his white shoes, whatever)… and never got one. Hence my distraction throughout what would otherwise have been a TOTALLY fun flick.

      Would it really have been so hard to get the uniforms correct?

      • While I agree it wouldn’t have been so hard to get it right. I’m guessing from the series of events he obviously wouldn’t be in possession of the necessary pieces of uniform. I.E. only had a couple of hours to pack and leave, didnt anticipate being on trial at the end of his mission.

        The soldier thing was a goof, I’d have to ask my dad about things. He’s a big time Navy guy. But to me it didn’t really matter but that’s just my opinion, I could see if I knew everything was wrong I’d find it annoying. But the general viewer would know even less about military protocol, and would find it a non-issue. That was my point.

        • Maybe the general public will not notice but as for me I hope that this doesn’t spoil the character for the rest of the run of Burn Notice. Maybe instead of being a professional SEAL Sam was just a perpetual goof-off who finally got run out of the service… after all, a Commander with 20 years of service ought to be able to dress in one uniform correctly.

          However what told me that this was the wardrobe department/military adviser’s fault (and not Sam’s) was that all of the other naval personnel were dressed incorrectly as well. Did they ALL lose their luggage?

          And sailors call one another “sailor” and not “soldier”. So that narrows this problem down to whoever the military adviser was on this flick. Frankly I have to believe that the executive Director Matt Nix got scammed into hiring this incompetent fool as he is always talking about how his father-in-law was a SEAL and wouldn’t want to bring any shame to them.

    • Never saw Lost. No loss there….

      • Your lucky nothing can touch how disappointing that show ended. I could highly recommend the first 2 or 3 seasons but it goes downhill from there fast.

  5. I’ve got to agree with the other commenter’s about the total disregard for any sort of military accuracy. I’m fine with a minor thing here or there on shows but there was no accuracy whatsoever (that whole “soldier” thing really bugged me as a former sailor). Also, I get this was supposed to be five years before the events of the show started, but in the intro to every show, Sam was supposed to be “an old friend who used to inform on [Michael] to the FBI” so how in the five years between getting his honorable discharge from his naval service to working with Michael did he move up high enough to have all his FBI contacts that they use throughout the series? It wasn’t really a bad made-for-tv movie, it just seemed to not really have anything to do with what’s been established in the 4 seasons of the show so much as a “hey, let’s make a movie about this character” sort of decision.

    • First, the whole, “Who used to inform on me to the FBI”, was changed from “who’s informing on me to the FBI”, in season two, after Mike’s FBI shadow was replaced by Jason Bly.

      Sam’s “Contacts” with the Government, are not the people who where shadowing Mike, they are people he built a relationship with during his Twenty Years as a Navy Seal. Also, The Fall of Sam Axe, takes place in 2005, Burn Notice takes place in “Present day” meaning 2010, as of the end of the last season, meaning the movie takes place ONE YEAR, before Burn Notice started, which actually also was alluded to in the Pilot Episode when Sam said “I have been here a year…”

      They also talk about Sam’s “Friends” in the FBI, when they talk about them, they are talking about the two guys who where tailing Mike for most of season 1, and who Sam was informing on Mike to.

  6. I thought the movie was going to be more about Sam’s time in the Seals and some of his experiances that he had. It seemed to me to be a rushed job to crank this out and slap a Bruce Campbell label on it.

    I am a big fan of the series but this one did disappoint. It wasn’t terrible but it also wasnt up to the standard of the series.

  7. I enjoyed it for what it was-entertainment

  8. You all do realize that this was just a TV movie, and not a documentary, right? I used to work in a grocery store, but I don’t get all outraged when I see the cereal boxes stocked in the wrong order on a TV show. Take a deep breath. Count to ten. It’ll all be okay.

    It’s a Bruce Campbell movie, and Bruce was great in it. That’s enough for me.

    • ho ho ho ho ho (you are making my side ache) ho ho ho ho ho ho

  9. There were SO many obvious goofs regarding the military uniforms in the first 10 minutes that, as a career Naval Officer, I just couldn’t continue watching the rest. Would it really have been that difficult to get something so basic right? It was almost offensive.

    • offense? I have to say I doubt Americans knew or even cared watching the film.

  10. I was a wonderful TV movie, I can’t tell a marine from a salior once they are on a ship so the uniforms used in the show is no big deal. I’m hoping for more, maybe some gun running in Ireland, Michael in Serbia- lets do it.

  11. Hey, I had a good time watching this. A fun time, like watching an Indiana Jones movie. There’s plenty of inaccuracies and things that won’t work in the regular series and I still tune in every week.

  12. I can’t believe the crying going on in this thread. If this is the biggest let down on tv in 43 years for you than this is the only thing on TV you have ever seen because I can name maybe 10 worst things in just the last 2 years. Give me 43 and I’d probably come up with a list of over a 1000. Get over your self.

    This movie doesn’t make the military look bad you cry babies do. When I was in the Navy people knew how to enjoy something regardless of inaccuracies. I’ve never seen a film that got every thing right or even 80% of things right. It’s about the story not about his uniform. Are you guys just military fanboys or were you actually in the military. If you were actually a part of the service than don’t ever let your commanders see this pathetic display your putting on here. They would be ashamed.

    • As I mentioned above, Burn Notice is a show that gives a casual viewer a lot of details into the spy world, they put a fair amount of effort into getting it right with former spies providing advice to the producers. It doesn’t look like they did anything close to that with this movie and I think that’s more the cause for complaints. When you have a show establish a reputation for accuracy like Burn Notice has and then have something like this come out from the same producers, viewers (especially those in the know) have every right to complain.

      • The only thing is THEY DON’T get it right. I have been in the Phone Business for 11 Years(before being laid off) and I have seen them do LOTS of stuff, with phone lines and such(even in voice over), that would NEVER happen in real life.

        For example, in one episode he breaks into a “utility closet” of a hotel to make a somewhat untraceable call. Only thing is he broke into a Janitor’s closet, not a “Utility Closet” Mops and such go in a different closet, secondly the “Telephone can” on the wall he used to make the call from, was the correct part…if he was in a Small B&B with like 10 rooms, and not a Multistory First Class hotel. In a hotel like that, the smaller phone closets would still have a wall full of phone cross connects. Lastly, I don’t know about you, but most tradesmen, don’t leave a tool worth over $500 just laying around. I am talking about the test set he used to make the call…again right tool, but would never be available to him, as when it is not being used, it is attached to a phone guys hip, or in his truck…Hotel Maintenance men don’t generally have specialty tools like that.

      • Here’s a question.

        How do you know they get a bunch of details right in the “spy world”? Are you a former spy? Is anyone here a former spy and willing to agree to that fact?

        The fact is, a lot of you are claiming to be former military and looking for a reason to b****. The fact is, if you really are prior military you know that people all the way up the chain screw up their uniforms on a daily basis. And the Special Ops guys (says me, the guy who’s deployed with them at this very second) are the worst.

        The bottom line is, the military isn’t mistake free, in uniforms or anything else. If you think that a friggin TV movie is insulting because it isn’t perfect… well, there’s no hope for you. Distracting, sure. It distracted me too. But insulting? That’s absurd. They showed Sam Axe as an honorable and courageous sailor. You should be proud of that, rather than nitpicking like a bunch of children. THAT is what I find insulting.

  13. None of this bothers me. It’s a TV show. I have no reason to assume that this show is any more accurate than “The A-Team” was. I watch it for the stories and the characters. I don’t know if Sam’s shirt buttons match the socks accurately. I don’t know if Fiona can really make a bomb with a can of Sterno and a watch. And it doesn’t matter. I’m not doing research for a paper. As long it’s still fun to watch Sam and Fiona argue, and Michael can make the explanations of what they’re doing sound logical while he’s narrating, then in my mind it’s a successful show.

    • Finally! Someone mentioned the important thing: this t.v. film’s nod to the A-Team. While Burn Notice is ‘What if the A-Team and Macgyver had a love child?’, this film was all-out A-Team. IMO, it lacked the chemistry that BN has, but filled some time between series.

      But here’s my question: If they had hired a military consultant, would all the fanboys say that this the best film ever, akin to Chiguy’s notion that BN is an accurate portrayal of the intelligence world? Seriously? ‘Hey everyone! The voiceover says that spies eat cream pies! It must be true!’ ‘Wow! The accuracy! They had the right shoes!’

  14. Since I brought no baggage into the movie like some of the other posters. I found the movie pretty enjoyable.

    I have no idea how accurate the things in Burn Notice are. I just like how the whole show works with the narration and the characters, and of course the stories. I am a stickler for technology being used in plausible and the writers do a great job of keeping the what you see seem plausible. Other than that, I don’t sweat the little stuff and enjoy the ride.

  15. The uniform didn’t offend me in any way but it was hard to take the movie seriously because of all the inaccuracies. The whole movie seemed like one big parody of Sam’s military career. I am and will continue to be a huge Burn Notice fan but have (hate) to say that it changed my whole perspective of his character in Burn Notice. I guess I have been watching NCIS and JAG too long.

  16. If I were as picky with everything I see on TV or the cinema as you guys are, I would never be able to enjoy anything. Real life is real life and movies are movies. Could it really be that some of the critics above have really lost it? I’m watching this because of Campbell. And just as expected he did the usual job playing himself. Ain’t that grand enough? And one more thing, isn’t the trademark of every Bruce Campbell flick that it has kind of a low production value somehow?

    I rest my case. Hail Bruce Campbell!

    Moving on now……

  17. A fan of Burn Notice – but the inattention to detail to the US Navy was hard to endure in this special. Sam portrayed a Navy Commander – Seal – he wore a navy ‘cover'(hat) of a junior officer – one without the scrambled eggs of a Commander; he wore the wrong insignia above shirt pocket – that of a surface naval officer not “Seal;” his ribbons were erroneous for a CDR; the Admirals blue dress uniform was that of a one star admiral, yet his devices on his shirt collar were that of a two star admiral. The “admiral” interrogating him (and the junior officer next to him) had no rank devices on their khaki shirt collar…plus many more detail errors that caused only more distraction by the many proud members of the US Navy. Let’s get it right on further ‘flashbacks.’ If the show was meant to be a ‘spook’ – it wasn’t funny.

  18. Matt Nix you need to hire a military consultant! IIRC Sam was wearing an aviator’s belt buckle, a surface warfare pin, yet called himself a SEAL. SEALs wear tridents. Look into it.

    And yes all the uniform screw ups make it hard to watch the show as they were such glaring errors and constantly in our face.

    Why is it the two men at the hearing had no rank on their uniforms?

  19. Wow, all this hatred and all over uniform inconsistencies? The vast majority of viewers won’t know the difference, and wouldn’t care if you told them about it. Lighten up. I didn’t realize the Navy was like the spies on Burn Notice: a bunch of bitchy little girls.

  20. Sam Ax is part of what made Burn Notice interesting for me to watch. But the solo part he was given that was separate from Burn Notice as far as I was concerned was so boring. The set looked like it was thrown together by amateurs and the supporting cast were not good as well. It was loke a poorly made B movie. Sam Ax was not ready for this and he is in his element as a regular on Burn Notice. thank you.

    • I totally agree! :-)

  21. I didn’t like that film at all and switched it off after an hour. It was much to cheesy and harmless. Almost like MacGyver or the A-Team. A really big lack of action, besides the random explosions we know from Burn Notice.

    If Sam Axe was younger he should’ve behaved himself younger aswell, but he didn’t. The film showed nothing new about Sam Axe and I finally think that Sam Axe isn’t proper to be the protagonist at all. Burn Notice rules cause of the amount of interesting characters. Sam Axe isn’t really one of them, but he has a big similarity with a really cool dude called Ash. 😉

  22. “The Fall of Sam Axe” for me was the most enjoyable movie I have seen in years, right up there with Lord of the Rings and Batman Begins. Let’s have more Sam Axe movies!

  23. People who don’t like “The Fall of Sam Axe” really don’t like themselves.

  24. Geez! The self appointed critics of this movie could never make such a great movie so they have put it down to make themselves feel a little higher.