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D: Scott Mann / 93m

Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Robert De Niro, Dave Bautista, Gina Carano, Morris Chestnut, Kate Bosworth, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Summer Altice, D.B. Sweeney, Lydia Hull

There are few things in the world of cinema more dispiriting, more dismal, than the sight of good actors struggling to make something out of nothing. We’ve all seen them: those star-drenched movies that feature a great cast; the kind of movie where you can’t help but think, “Well, if they all signed up for it then it must be good”. But here’s the thing, the thing that a lot of people forget: actors, just like everyone else on the planet, have bills to pay, and so, sometimes, they forget about the “art” of cinema and focus on getting paid. And you can tell within minutes of the movie starting that the Oscar-winner in the supporting role is bored, or that the up-and-coming actor with a few good roles under his belt is trying too hard by way of compensating for the paper-thin nature of his character, and the star looks weary throughout, as if once committed to making the movie he can’t wait for filming to be over. (And let’s not mention any promotion work, where they might have to talk about the movie and how “good” it is…)

And so it is with Heist, a movie that has no real reason for existing, and wouldn’t be missed if by some chance it suddenly didn’t. This is knock-off movie making of the finest ordure, a terrible waste of the cast’s time, the crew’s time, your time, everybody’s time. It sucks, and royally. Despite what you see on screen, the overwhelming impression is of a movie made just for the sake of it, because somebody  – and here we have to lay the blame very firmly at the feet of writer Stephen Cyrus Sepher – had an idea for a movie and they managed to persuade five separate production companies to cough up the money to make it. And as so often happens in these situations, nobody looked at Sepher’s script and said, “Er, hang on a second…”

Heist - scene1

Ironically given the movie’s subject matter, this should be filed under “take the money and run”, as everyone involved does not quite enough to make Heist a watchable affair, from Mann’s uninspired, by-the-numbers direction to Sepher’s cliché-ridden, nonsensical script to half a dozen bored performances that help to sap the life out of a movie that’s already on life support. The main offender is De Niro, giving possibly the worst performance of his career, a lazy, credibility-free caricature of a gangster. De Niro is so bad that if you were to show someone who had no idea about his career or his legacy this particular movie, and then showed them, say, Raging Bull (1980), that someone would be completely baffled as to how it could be the same actor. This is a role where he mugs his way through in lieu of providing a recognisable character, and where he makes absolutely no attempt to convince the audience that his character’s sudden change of heart in the last ten minutes is in any way believable.

Elsewhere, the movie’s star looks tired and/or bored, with Morgan summing up just enough energy to get him through each scene, while Bautista undoes the kudos he’s gained from Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) by giving such a one-note performance it’s embarrassing (though to be fair his character doesn’t exactly benefit from being written that well). He’s matched by Chestnut as De Niro’s psychotic right hand man, but both actors are outdone by Gosselaar’s crooked cop, a wise-cracking annoyance who’s introduced in the most unlikely of fashions and continues to be annoying until the script finally has done with him. And Carano continues to undo the good work she did in Haywire (2011) by steadfastly refusing to alter her expression no matter what.

Heist - scene2

With so many things going against it, Heist struggles along from scene to scene, clearly happening in its own little alternate universe where the laws of plausibility are flouted with impunity, and where bad directing, writing and acting are actively encouraged and supported. The plot, such as it is, involves Morgan teaming up with Bautista to rob De Niro’s casino, but when the robbery goes wrong, they hijack a bus and head for Texas (as you do). Bautista is bad through and through – hey, he doesn’t care if the pregnant lady on board goes into labour, that’s how badass he is – but Morgan is doing it to pay for his sick daughter’s transplant operation (so he’s much more noble). The threat of passengers being killed keeps the police at bay, while De Niro and Chestnut beaver away in the background looking for a way to isolate Morgan from the bus and for De Niro to get his money back. Along the way Carano becomes an ally, Bosworth cameos as De Niro’s daughter, and bus driver D.B. Sweeney continually looks like he’s wondering what happened to his career.

So, it’s a bad movie, but it’s professionally made and manages to look a little more glossy than your average TV movie, but with so many “did they really just do that?” moments littering the narrative, no amount of goodwill generated by the production crew can mitigate for the farrago of bad ideas and decisions made in front of the camera. This could – and should – have been better in every way but sadly, no one took the time or made the effort to improve things, and the result is a movie that should be a dictionary definition of the word lame. Or awful. Or lousy. Or rubbish (you get the picture).

Rating: 3/10 – one to avoid, Heist only scores so highly because the crew, at least, weren’t asleep at the wheel; with no one attempting to correct the mistakes inherent in the script, or even recognise them, all the viewer can do is to try and stop their jaw from continually hitting the floor from seeing all the ridiculous antics the script is packed with.