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Directed by Scott Mann. Produced by Randall Emmett, George Furla, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Alexander Tabrizi, and Stephen Cyrus Sepher. Written by Stephen Cyrus Sepher and Max Adams. Release date: November 13, 2015.

I suppose a movie that’s titled “Heist” isn’t one that we should expect to push many boundaries. That’s about as bland as it gets, losing perhaps only to Spy for 2015’s most generic title. The plot hits all of the beats you’d expect from a, well, heist movie. It would be an incredibly easy movie to pitch to a studio, though: “So, it’s a combination of a caper film and Speed.” That’s likely how the entire pitch went down. It’s so simple and so easy to picture that it’s surprising it took us this long to make it. Speed came out 21 years earlier, after all – and now don’t you feel old? 21 years. Yikes.

The plot sees a casino dealer named Luke (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) team up with a disgruntled bodyguard, Cox (Dave Bautista), to rob a casino owned by The Pope (Robert De Niro) to pay for treatment for his sick daughter. The robbery goes awry, so they wind up hijacking a bus in an attempt to escape, only to find themselves on the run from both the cops – led by a sympathetic officer played by Gina Carano – and The Pope’s number two man, The Dog (Morris Chestnut). Unfortunately, both “The Pope” and “The Dog” are nicknames. How much more entertaining a movie would this be if it was actually the Pope and a giant talking dog?

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It’s not like we’re dealing with a big-budget wide-release movie, either, so a premise like that might have even been possible – there isn’t as big of a risk and therefore not as much reason to be a cookie cutter. The director is Scott Mann, who brought us a ridiculously over-the-top and supremely entertaining movie in his debut feature The Tournament, so he could have been the right man for that job. Here, he brings a good amount of energy to the proceedings but otherwise fails to recapture most of the magic he found in The Tournament – mostly because it’s a completely different type of movie. This one’s less focused on the action and more fixated on trying to create tension between all of the involved parties.

For instance, Luke is frequently at odds with Cox, as they’re doing this for very different reasons. Luke wants to keep all of the hostages on the bus alive, while Cox couldn’t care less. As such, they have very different interactions with the various police officers who follow them, as well as with The Pope and The Dog, whose nicknames are just so great that I feel the need to type them out as frequently as possible. “So, The Pope and The Dog walk into a bar…”

Heist, from its generic title to its lifeless plot, is your typical direct-to-VOD release.

The plot is as generic as they come, right down to a twist that (1) is incredibly predictable and (2) doesn’t make any sense when you think about it. The Pope has a subplot that involves him being terminally ill, but it’s only barely explored. The “sick daughter” trope is so overused that it borders on the edge of being something an audience can’t take seriously anymore. Not that Heist deserves to be taken seriously anyway, but it doesn’t have much self-awareness where it likely should have. It’s too self-important for a movie with such a silly premise, and audiences are more likely to laugh at it and its clichés than allow it to suck them in.

It’s not like we’ve got a poor cast, either. Jeffrey Dean Morgan might not be a typical leading man, but he’s talented, and if the script would have let him, he’d fit this type of role perfectly. Dave Bautista, coming off Spectre just a week earlier, gets to show more of his range here, if only because he gets more than a single word of dialogue. He’s great at playing tough brutes. Robert De Niro may have been phoning in a good number of performances in the last decade or more, but he could play this role convincingly in his sleep – even if I still want to see him play the actual Pope. Gina Carano offers up one of her better performances, even if that’s not saying much. Morris Chestnut is intimidating as The Dog. If only they were given more to do.

Heist, from its generic title to its lifeless plot, is your typical direct-to-VOD release. It’s not unwatchable bad, it has a solid but not A-list cast, and it has a couple of good ideas, but the execution is lacking, and it’s nowhere near entertaining enough to be worth recommending. It’s a heist-movie-gone-wrong mixed with Speed, but sadly not as fun as that sounds. Heist had the potential to stand above the crop, but takes itself too seriously and doesn’t have enough creativity to be worth your time.

Bottom Line: A bland movie that needed more inventiveness or self-awareness, Heist is a dissapointment.

Recommendation: Sadly better than this week’s two new wide releases, Heist still isn’t worth seeing, although it’ll be cheaper and slightly more entertaining than either of those.



If you want more of Matthew “Marter” Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet and check out his weekly movie podcast.

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