Heist can’t really be reviewed. Or maybe it just shouldn’t be. The film sets out to do nothing, and I think it does ‘nothing’ very well (either way you read this is fine). It’s not a family drama or a suspense picture, yet to call it a self-aware B-movie or a cheesy parody also seems wrong. It’s terribly made but senselessly bonkers, utterly inept but totally watchable. If Jackson Pollock edited five-minute long patches from different direct-to-video action movies, it might look something like this: an incoherent assemblage of wooden acting, cheesy dialogue, and frenetic style. When a police officer in the film finds a criminal’s profile on a database she says to herself, “Hello there, soulja boy.” The criminal is not a soulja, a boy or a rapper. There was no reason for that line to be said, and yet it was.
To simplify my thoughts, I’m avoiding any coherent analysis. I have instead decided to offer three observations. If you were asked to write a profile on an elderly man crossing the street on a unicycle, wearing an expensive suit with rubber boots, could you possibly make any sense of him? No you couldn’t, soulja boy.
De Niro’s character has cancer and is retiring from his dirty casino business. When Jeffrey Dean Morgan, his former understudy, turns on him and steals millions of dollars to pay for his sick daughter’s medical bills, De Niro sends Morris Chestnut, his new lacky, to chase him on a hijacked bus full of civilians. (All of these characters have names but who cares?) As connections between characters are revealed, each one feels less likely than the last. The twists feel like an afterthought used to contort the film’s world for the most utility: more redemption and less death; only the bad guys lose.
Describing the writing is near impossible. It feels like sentimental parody, wise-cracking earnestness, and a film school imitation of great gangster films and low-brow direct-to-video actioners. Dissimilar to someone like Tarantino, the pastiche doesn’t cohere; it places every element in illogical opposition. Consider this a smorgasbord board of free samples:
“Whoever said money can’t buy love clearly didn’t have enough.”
“I always thought there was nothing sexier than a woman who fought back.”
*Man bleeding in bus, cop says:* “The word on the street is he is having a serious allergic reaction to bullets.”
“You’re working the hell out of that vest.”
Reprising a similar role to Casino, GoodFellas and The Godfather movies, De Niro stars as the head of a casino and crime business. He has become a parody of his former self, a direct-to-video sacrilege of celebrated characters. Seagal was never well-regarded, but both actors ended up at the same destination, the beer league of cinema: campy, unprofessional VOD flicks. Don’t worry Nicholas Cage, you’re a close second behind our king of unintentional comedy.
When I was younger, before I knew anything about what made a “good” movie, my parents used to program our family viewings by randomly selecting DVDs at the local video store. Our rental roulette brought home a wide array: challenging art-films like Béla Tarr’s The Man From London (the back of the case made it sound like a noir), but mostly artless Steven Seagal flicks. If I took a nap after “Shia Laboeufing” through all these movies in a short period of time, I would dream about them collectively, a mixing similar to Heist. No matter what side you land on, dream or nightmare, certainly this film works the hell out of its vest. Whatever that means.