Taken on its own merits, as a B thriller, Pawn is largely successful. The hostage genre has been done to a large extent, and Pawn certainly follows many of its conventions. This includes a script with logic-defying twists, and an ending that simply feels too neat. But for a film of its caliber, Pawn does seem to pack a surprising punch.
The most successful thing about Pawn is the direction and set-up. The exposition at the diner, and how the different players were introduced, was done to a good effect. The characters and their story-lines, overly brief to be sure, felt well integrated, with the film never losing its flow. The cast was also strong, with performances by such great character actors as Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta, and even Michael Chiklis. What the film dares to do with some of these characters, killing one off very soon, gives the film a sense of stakes and weight that it otherwise wouldn't have. Such actors seem to have a good chemistry, a necessity for such a confined story.
This isn't to say Pawn does anything especially interesting, we can see the ending a mile away. The characterizations are shallow and one-note. As an enjoyable ride, however, you could do far worse.