Published Nov 13, 2015Scott Mann's entirely perfunctory crime thriller, Heist, is a bizarre exercise in cinematic redundancy. The premise, wherein the honourable but financially strapped Vaughn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) agrees to steal money from his mob kingpin boss (Robert De Niro) to pay for his sick daughter's time-sensitive, cash-conditional surgery, is a cliché unto itself, and unfortunately, Mann and inexperienced screenwriter Stephen Cyrus Sepher have absolutely nothing new or exciting to propose with this rather blasé examination of survival and moral ambiguity.
Since the dying child/frantic parent angle is a rather laboured and emotionally manipulative plea for audience investment, this setup and the lethargic manner in which it's handled (Morgan strains out a couple of tears while sitting by her bed) alienates instead of ensuring investment as intended. We know little about Vaughn save his basic goodness and inability to earn much cash as a casino employee in a money-laundering front. There's neither creativity nor human intricacy established in this introduction, which is why his decision to join Cox (Dave Bautista) on a heist establishes virtually no tension or moral conflict — it's simply the natural progression of a story that has no interest in challenging the conventions it adheres to throughout.
Similarly, the introduction of De Niro (referred to as, I kid you not, "The Pope") is painfully contrived and strained. He and his lackey, "Dog" (Morris Chestnut), hold a thieving employee (foreshadowing, folks) at gunpoint and spout some superficial garbage about the survival instinct before shooting him — and his girlfriend — in the head. Basically, "The Pope" is a badass sociopath with a mostly undefined identity, save some later revelation that his daughter (Kate Bosworth) doesn't love him the way he wants her to. Whether or not we're supposed to give a shit about this entirely superfluous and miscalculated scene is unclear.
If these dreadful parallels weren't bad enough (both men are involved in crime to provide for their daughters), Heist then drops the expected conflict between these men and transports Cox and Vaughn onto a city bus full of hostages. The narrative than turns into a very crappy version of Speed with Gina Carano stepping in for Keanu as a cop willing to defy direct orders (laughably and illogically) from her superiors because of a vibe she gets from Vaughn, a complete stranger holding people at gunpoint.
With every character decision defying credulity and the inevitable twist being entirely predictable, the only thing left to save this derivative work is the action. And sadly, even that is infrequent and poorly executed.
Even though this unnecessarily elaborate and inconsistent work is awful in almost every way, it isn't entirely devoid of entertainment value. While Dave Bautista is certainly skilled at lifting large objects and eating lean protein, acting isn't really something he excels at. He screams, snorts and spits his way through this movie, to unintentionally comedic effect. De Niro's obvious boredom is also hilarious, as is Mark-Paul Gosselaar's flippant interpretation of a corrupt detective.
But, as accidental badness isn't really a notable achievement, Heist merely exists as the sort of forgettable fare that Spike TV might air at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday.