Directed by: Scott Mann
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dave Bautista, Robert De Niro, Gina Carano, Morris Chestnut
In order to pay for his daughter’s operation, long-time casino employee Vaughn reluctantly teams up with a greedy security guard called Cox in order to rob the casino, which is laundering money for the Chinese mob. The trouble is, as Vaughn is all too aware, youcan’t rip off the casino and get away scot-free, as The Pope, who runs the place, will do everything in his power to wreak revenge. Escaping with the loot, the robbers are chased by armed guards and have to force their way onto a commuter bus, taking the passengers hostage…
Heist marks the welcome return to directing duties of Scott Mann, whose previous film was the excellent action thriller, The Tournament. Whilst this film isn’t in the same ball park when it comes to action, it is a more even-handed film with a great cast and strong production values.
Things don’t start off particularly great. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews you’ll know that the use of “in-media-res”, whereby the film starts at a point of action then travels back to the beginning of the story, is a personal bug-bear of mine. It’s a totally over-done trope and I wish more films would have the ability to grab their audience early without using it.
Luckily the acting is a lot stronger than the opening plot structure, and we have a mix of veterans and up-and-comers within the cast. Gina Carano, who plays Kris, a police officer who becomes an integral part of the hostage negotiations, isn’t a particularly strong actress (she seems to have but one expression throughout the film) but she does have screen presence and a lot of charisma. Dave Bautista, one time darling of the WWE, has done a good job of striking out on his own and not waiting for the obligatory contracted movie under the WWE logo and did a great job as a Bond villain in Spectre, gets some good dialogue scenes (especially his first encounter with Vaughn). Then there are the big-hitters like Jeffrey Dean Morgan and De Niro. Morgan effortlessly carries the film as Vaughn, immediately likeable and sympathetic in his situation and the voice of reason throughout. Meanwhile De Niro gives us a villain who is both incredibly menacing and ruthless whilst at the same time seeking his own kind of redemption.
he film moves at a pretty decent pace once Vaughn has made up his mind to get involved with Cox. The planning of the heist is a particularly strong early scene. Set in a diner, Vaughn lays out his plan using a salt shaker and other condiments. As he talks, we see the plan being acted out, until suddenly a waitress comes by to clear their table and we’re back in the diner. It’s a really clever bait-and-switch.
However the real action kicks in once we’re on the bus, and we’re reminded of Scott Mann’s action credentials. The action highlight is when the SWAT team try to storm the bus, and there’s some great stunt-work filmed with style, and zero jerkycam.
Heist delivers a strong scenario but the edges are tinged with schmaltz (Vaughn does, afterall, have a sick daughter needing to be saved). Scott Mann delivers the on the action when needed and the cast work well together.
7 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)