Tag Archives: heist

Heist (2015)

heist-2015

Bus 657 might not be a great name for a heist film, but it’s at least less generic than Heist, the name they later changed it to. And that’s ultimately the problem with this star-studded movie — everything about it feels awfully generic. It’s might be better than your average straight-to-DVD action flick, but you’ll just as likely forget about it next week.

Take the first three sequences of the film, for instance (too early spoilers, no?). It starts off with a bunch of masked robbers hijacking a bus full of people. In the next scene, a couple of people are being threatened and tortured by someone working under Robert De Niro, whose character is the ruthless boss of a casino. The third scene shows Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character working at that casino and desperate for money due to a sick daughter. Now, I bet you have basically figured out what this movie is all about.

You’re right, Heist is essentially a casino robbery meets Speed. You’ve got the robber with a heart of gold who is doing naughty things because he has no choice. You have the bad guy accomplice who deserves all the blame (Dave Bautista) because he’s doing it for selfish reasons. You have the scary casino boss who wants his money back. You’ve got the young police officer (MMA star Gina Carano) who develops a connection with the robber and the chief who will do whatever it takes to rescue to hostages (Mark-Paul Gosselaar).

It is absolutely by-the-numbers, even with the obligatory little twists thrown in along the way. Soon I started guessing how the plot would develop with high accuracy, and even when I missed I wasn’t impressed by what they did instead because it was even more cliched than I anticipated. While I would not call the film dull, the strong generic feel and predictability never got my heart pumping either.

The biggest problem I had with the movie was all the plot contrivances that stretched the limits of credulity. The characters did a lot of things that made little sense, but the film asks you to take them at face value instead of setting them up to be believable. I just didn’t buy their motivations and reactions.

It begs the question why so many name stars or at least former stars would latch onto this project, a film with a reported US$2 million production budget, no less. Usually you’d get maybe one star looking for a quick paycheck (think any Nicholas Cage film made in the last five years), but certainly not this many. I doubt they’re all starving, anyway. I haven’t even mentioned the highly-billed Kate Bosworth cameo and DB Sweeney’s role as the bus driver (hey, don’t knock DB Sweeney — he was pretty big back in the Fire in the Sky era). I’m sure there was something about Heist that made them think it could be a hit, but for whatever reason the potential did not translate to the finished product.

I’m probably harsher on this film than I would have been had it just featured a bunch of no-name actors. If you strip the expectations away, Heist is probably an above average rental or VOD given that it is generally adequate in most areas, from the production value to the direction of Scott Man (The Tournament), the execution of the action and even the dialogue. I guess it’s one of those unusual films where the great cast is a detriment because it develops unrealistic expectations. It’s always better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed, no?

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Trance (2013)

trance-poster1

I had heard lots of amazing things about Danny Boyle’s latest film, Trance, months before it hit my local cinema. Judging from the title, I suspected it was about hypnotism, a subject that feels strangely under-targeted by Hollywood, though I wasn’t sure that’s what it was about because I avoided the trailers religiously.

Well, I was right about the hypnotism slant, though I must admit I was a little disappointed in the end despite everything Trance had to offer, most probably because I had been expecting too much after just everyone called the film “amazing.”

James McAvoy plays a guy called Simon, who works as security at auctions for high-priced artworks. A robbery, naturally, takes place, and Simon is forced by the robbers (headed by Mr Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel) to work with a hypnotist played by Rosario Dawson to retrieve his memory. It sounds simple enough, but as you would expect, Trance is full of twists and turns that will keep the audience guessing. What is real? Who is manipulating? Who is being manipulated? Just what the heck is really going on?

The mystery is the driving force of the film and kept me fascinated for the perfect 101-minute running time, but the revelations that are slowly delivered to the viewer, piece by piece, didn’t “wow” me as much as I thought they would. It was clever but not that clever — at least not clever enough to the point that it would astonish most viewers (or at least I think).  There was ambiguity to allow interpretation but the room for the imagination to roam was more limited than films like say Inception or Shutter Island.

That said, the film was still exciting (especially the first half — it began to sag in the second act), intriguing because of its subject matter, and powered by excellent performances from a strong cast. I wouldn’t have paired McAvoy with Dawson myself, but the casting somehow worked. And Cassell is of course excellent as a sleazy criminal, the kind of role he could play with minimal effort. I would have liked to have cared more for the characters, especially McAvoy’s and Dawson’s, but I suppose that is more the fault of the script than the actors.

Danny Boyle’s stylish direction and a ripping soundtrack also elevate Trance above your average psychological (not to mention sexually charged) thriller, but it falls short of becoming a classic or even one of the more memorable films of the genre in recent years.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Town (2010)

I finally got to see The Town, the Boston crime drama/thriller co-written and directed by Ben Affleck.  I had heard some good things about it, but I certainly did not expect The Town to be one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

There’s nothing terribly original or groundbreaking about the premise of ‘The Town’, ie Charlestown, a small neighbourhood that boasts the highest number of bank robbers in Boston.  Affleck plays Doug MacCray, a local crook with a shady family history and a hot-headed best friend, James Coughlin, played by Jeremy Renner (from The Hurt Locker).  An introductory heist introduces two key characters — Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), a pretty bank manager, and Adam Fawley (Jon Hamm from Mad Men), an FBI agent hunting them down.

The Town is an intense, emotional and explosive roller coaster ride that’s gripping from the very beginning until the final scene.  It’s incredibly sharp, well written, has a great cast, and the heist sequences are some of the best I’ve ever seen.  Affleck, who has never been the greatest actor in my opinion, has established himself as one heck of a director, and I certainly hope there will be plenty more to come from him in the future.

Affleck, Hall and Hamm are all solid — but for me it’s the brilliant Jeremy Renner who steals the show as the impulsive, reckless, but extremely loyal friend.  The guy exudes screen presence and put me on edge every time he appeared.  He was terrific in The Hurt Locker, where he was the ‘good guy’, but he’s probably even more effective here as a villain of sorts.  I was surprised the film didn’t get more love from the voters on the Golden Globes, but I’m pleased to see that Renner got the nod for a best supporting actor nomination (the film’s only nomination).

Another pleasant surprise was Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively, who has a small but important role as the local skank.  Lively has a tendency to annoy me on Gossip Girl, but I can’t deny she was amazing in this.  Well done.

There’s nothing I didn’t like about this film.  I’ve heard that critics are comparing The Town to the classic 1995 De Niro/Pacino film Heat. I was too young to remember the latter film favourably, but I am so impressed with The Town that I will definitely go check it out.

4.5 stars out of 5!