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Heist: Dull Heist Flick Fails to Take Advantage of Strong Cast
Written by Stephen Cyrus Sepher and Max Adams, ingenuity and common sense seem to be missing from Scott Mann's unoriginal and generic low-budget thriller, Heist –and it's a problem that not even the great Robert De Niro can do anything about.
After a seemingly violent intro, we are introduced to The Pope (De Niro in one of his sleepiest roles to date); a feared casino owner who rules over his business and his people with an iron fist, alongside his equally fearful right-hand-man and enforcer, Dog (Chestnut). Working as Swan Casino's blackjack card dealer is Vaughn (Morgan); an ex-military man trying to earn enough money to pay off his young daughter's medical bills due to her ongoing cancer treatments.
Faced with a deadline to come up with $300,000 or his daughter loses her spot in hospital, Vaughn finds himself embroiled in some funny-business with casino security guard, Cox (Bautista), who along with a team of robbers, is planning to rob the Pope.
With elements taken from other - better - movies such as Speed - there's a lot of time spent on a hijacked speeding bus - John Q and even Ocean's Eleven, there's very little creativity or vision in Heist – everything just feels very routine. The dialogue is poor - some of the lines will most definitely fall under the 'some of the most ridiculous things said in movie history' category - and the attempt of inducing any substance or emotional depth is quickly derailed by the story's loose approach to reason and logic.
It's yet another disappointing turn from the Oscar-winning actor, Robert De Niro - it's becoming difficult to believe that this is the same actor who played Jake La Motta in Raging Bull or Vito Corleone in The Godfather - who once again sleepwalks through the motions of a 'ruthless' casino owner who is forced to mend burned bridges when faced with his own mortality. Morgan, on the other hand, gives a slightly stronger offering while everyone else, including Bautista and Carano, are as bland and flavourless as the very film that they've found themselves in.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
On the surface, Robert Zemecki’s slick and a technically pristine WWII-set romantic-espionage-thriller looks like a winner. Boasting an impressive cast and a script by Peaky Blinders’ Steven Knight, everything about Allied points to success. However, although visually striking and overall satisfying in terms of action, it’s the film’s central story - the romantic pairing between Mr. Pitt and Ms. Cotillard – fails to ever really get going, leaving the film a little hollow and difficult to invest in.
Set in 1942, the story begins with the introduction of Canadian intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Pitt), who finds himself on a mission in Morocco with French Resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), who is to play the role of his wife during a covert operation that involves assassinating a high-ranking Nazi official. After successfully carrying out their assignment, the pair’s pretend relationship soon turns into the real thing with the duo soon marrying and welcoming a baby girl into the world, as they settle in war-torn Britain.
However, things are soon turned upside down for Max when he is informed by his by-the-books boss, Frank Heslop (Mad Men’s Jared Harris), that Marianne is currently under investigation and that she, in fact, may be a Nazi spy. Given seventy-two hours to prove her innocence before he will need to kill her, Max soon sets out on his own investigation.
Aesthetically, the film embraces an old-Hollywood approach, with a certain sense of nostalgic glamour and elegance present through the minutes. Told through a wonderfully slick lens frequent Zemeckis collaborator, cinematographer Don Burgess, there's a certain style and sophistication to every single frame. But while the film is pleasing to the eye and Steven Knight’s script boasts plenty of moments of suspense and intrigue, there‘s a serious lack of heart missing from the story, which turns the more passionate moments into melodrama.
In addition, the romance between the two leads is never really sold. Both Pitt and Cotillard definitely look the part and when they are not onscreen together, their performances are affective. However, it’s when they share the screen and viewers are asked to buy into their love story that it all goes south. Allied is a functional and an effective WWII spy thriller. It’s just not as captivating or engaging of a romance-drama that it sells itself to be.