With a title as generic as ‘Heist’, you know you’re in for a rough watch (unless it’s David Mamet’s ‘Heist’, which sadly is not the case today). This is a film so tediously lame and formulaic that it should grace only the very bottom of truck stop DVD bins. One day it will.
Somehow, the film got a remarkable cast, so the production values are glossy and the initial release is theatrical. You might even force yourself into thinking you like it for a while because you’re so fond of all the faces trotting across the screen. Don’t fall for the trap. The movie is on a one-way trip to obscurity. Paying any attention to it will just needlessly slow down that process.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan continues his sad streak of headlining movies that are unworthy of his talents. This time he plays Vaughn, a father with a terminally ill daughter that his meager boat casino salary can’t afford to support. She has a big surgery that he’s hoping his boss (Robert De Niro, who must owe back taxes or something) might help him with. But no, he’s a jerk.
Fortunately, Vaughn is not the only disgruntled employee around that floating gambling den. There’s also an embittered Dave Bautista playing a man tired of being hired muscle. He has a plan to rob the joint. He just needs a man further inside the business with the right information to pull off the job. Wouldn’t ya know it? Vaughn is that guy. So, they team up, do the heist, and shockingly it all goes wrong. Next thing you know, they’re trying to make a getaway on a public bus because, yes, this thing is a low rate ‘Speed’ knockoff as well. With cops on their tail, all seems lost. Fortunately, Vaughn has the kind eyes that Gina Carano’s cop knows she can trust. Maybe this will work out? Or not… Honestly, who cares?
‘Heist’ feels like a script that was written for the late 1990s direct-to-video market, sold in a coked-up pitch meeting with the line, “It’s like Reservoir Dogs meets Speed!” The thing then stuck around until director Scott Mann (no relation to Michael) managed to con all these actors into doing it. If nothing else, that’s likely a sad indication of the struggles of the mid-level genre movie these days. ‘Heist’ was somehow the best project available for all these guys.
To each and every actor’s credit, they do their best. Morgan somehow finds genuine pathos in his cartoon action hero, while Carano and Bautista continue to prove that they’re better actors than the stigma associated with their former careers might suggest. Sure, they’re all putting that effort into total garbage, but the fact that they came come out of this thing with only minimum embarrassment is almost as impressive an achievement as providing a good performance in a great movie.
As for De Niro… well… what can you say? The guy is on autopilot just like in every movie he’s made in the last decade not directed by David O. Russell. I suppose it’s less cringe-inducing to see De Niro slumming in ‘Heist’ than ‘The Intern’, since it’s at least within a more appropriate genre, but still… This is rough. He’s just lucky that his early work was extraordinary enough that nothing he does now can outright destroy his legacy, even though sometimes it feels like that’s the actor’s goal these days.
Other than the cast, ‘Heist’ is remarkably unexceptional in every conceivable way. The dialogue feels like it was compiled out of lines stolen from the crumpled pages of an actual screenplay. No cliché is too big to shove into the actors’ mouths, and you can’t help but feel sorry for them for merely having to memorize these words. The plot is absolutely ludicrous, yet performed with such dour seriousness that it can’t even be enjoyed as ludicrous camp. It’s hard to imagine how the filmmakers could have possibly read this thing and considered playing it as serious drama. But given how lazily Scott Mann shoots the movie without even a modest sense of suspense technique or clear screen grammar, it’s safe to say that it was made by people who didn’t care or know any better.
‘Heist’ isn’t even worth watching to laugh at. There isn’t enough delightfully stupid material for that. This thing is just dull and dumb, worth forgetting before even seeing it. On the plus side, at least it should disappear fast enough that the cast won’t have time to get embarrassed. Hopefully, their paychecks last long enough to take a little more time to pick their next projects.