Robert De Niro. Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Kate Bosworth. Morris Chestnut. Gina Carano. Dave Bautista.
The cast list reads like a who’s who of good-but-not-great films that have littered the landscape of early spring and late summer. All of them have been in something spectacular, but bringing them all together echoes with the late-breaking career of Morgan Freeman as the set-up man. Heist (or Bus 657) is that kind of film about a blackjack dealing-father who needs the perfect heist to pay for his daughter’s expensive, non-insurance-covered operation.
Luke Vaughn (Morgan) knows he shouldn’t steal from “The Pope” (De Niro) but when heavy Cox (Bautista, sans makeup) lures him into robbing Pope’s casino and righthand man Derrick Prince (Chestnut), he is all in. Their robbery goes south (duh!) and they end up careening around on a bus driven by Bernie (D.B. Sweeney) with a setup straight out of Speed. However, local officer Kris Bajos (Carano) is in hot pursuit, and is soon joined by a suave Marconi (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). Vaughn and Cox (obviously) disagree on how to proceed, and the plot thickens aboard the bus.
All of this is pretty much what you would expect, like a Speedy Ocean’s Eleven without the humor. We’re warned several times that things are not what they seem but unfortunately, they seem so obvious that the ‘sleight of hand’ was telegraphed well before the big reveal. I don’t know if this is the result of a poor script, or poor direction, but the crew deserved better.
And then there’s the human interest level, as if the kid in the hospital bed motif wasn’t enough: we’re supposed to believe that The Pope really, really badly wishes he had made better life decisions and he wants to go straight. Or at least he wants a shot at conning his completely empathetic daughter (Kate Bosworth) into believing he can go straight, which changes the whole dynamic of the film. I am all for redemptive story arcs, and Bosworth nails the paltry five minutes that she’s given here, but the transition is so jarring that I thought I must’ve missed something. (I had not.)
Fortunately, each piece by each actor is pretty solid. Bautista has my attention after Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre; I’m already a fan of Bosworth and Morgan. But the real misdirection seems to be in thinking that there was going to be an emotional payoff for the audience that just wasn’t there. I’m disappointed, really.
The trailer had me fooled.