Friday, July 03, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: AMERICAN HEIST (2015)

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MOVIE INFO

James owes his life to his older brother, Frankie after taking the rap for a crime they committed together. While Frankie served time, James worked to turn his life around, got a steady job and began courting his former girlfriend Emily. Now, Frankie is released and back on the streets with no money and no place to go. He turns to his underworld connections and convinces James to join him in hopes that one last job will be the solution to change both their lives.

Rating: R (for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexual material and brief drug use)
Directed By: Sarik Andreasyan
Written By: Raul Inglis
In Theaters: Jul 24, 2015 Limited
Runtime: 1 hr. 34 min.
Lionsgate


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This is Frankie. He looks like he doesn't know what sort of gangster he wants to be yet? ©Saban Films

So a movie with heist in the title after the word American. What could this be about? 

Naturally, if you're familiar with the word heist and when it's used in movies, you know there's a bank involved. The American in the title on the other hand I'm not so sure about. Maybe because it happens in America? Or maybe the reason or logic behind the heist is an American one? Does it matter? No. 

American Heist was apparently based on an old Steve McQueen movie called The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959) but if you were to click that link and read the plot entry for the film and compare it to this movie the phrase 'based on' should be preceded with the words ' very, very loosely'. In fact I think the only thing similar between these two films is the fact that a bank gets robbed. Maybe. American Heist is also an American-Russian independent action film directed by Armenian Director Sarik Andreasyan which makes it sort of an exotic thing since it's a heist movie interpreted through the eyes of an Eastern European person and this sort of is important. I'll explain later. 

Ahh the bar scene. Every good American movie has to have a bar scene. ©Saban Films

So what is this movie about? WARNING!! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!! Well, like I said there's a bank heist in there and it's also about two brothers. The older brother Frankie played by Adrien Brody has just been released from a ten year stint in jail and wants to make amends and peace with his brother James played by Hayden Christensen. James has been living alone the past ten years and hasn't seen his brother in all that time. He's been working as a mechanic and trying to get his life in order as well as trying to start his own car repair shop. But things aren't going so well since he too has a criminal record when he was caught as an accomplice for the crime that sent his brother to jail for ten years. So of course you can guess that he blames his brother for screwing up his life. 

Well, his brother shows up and tries to talk to him and tell him that he's got a solution to all their problems. That while inside he met with a few honest people who want him to join them in working on a real estate project. He convinces James to come with him and meet his new partners. When he meets them they tell him that the meeting with their contact is happening that very night and asks him if he can drive them there. They end up at an abandoned warehouse where James is told to wait in the car. Feeling uneasy about the situation James gets out and walks into the warehouse when suddenly he hears gunshots and see his brother and the two partners come running towards him. Frankie's partners have shot their contact. So all four jump into James's car just in time to see a police car come up from behind them. James drives like crazy around the industrial lot but manages to escape the police. He's told to get rid of the car. 

Your brother who just got released from prison says he made an honest deal while in there then has you meet these guys. I think you'd be stupid not to suspect anything amiss. ©Saban Films

Later in the evening while at home and packing his things into a duffel bag to get out of town his brother shows up. They have an argument about what happened but Frankie swears that he didn't know it was going to happen that way. James grabs his things and walks out the door but as walks towards his car Frankie's partners Ray (Tory Kittles) and Sugar (Akon) show up. Frankie immediately grabs James's duffel bag and  when asked about it he tells them that James packed him some clothes since he doesn't have any. Sugar then gets into James's car and takes it away to be destroyed while the three sit and talk. In an indirect way James is told that he's now part of the gang and to be the driver for their upcoming bank heist. He's also told that should he leave town or tell anyone about them or their plan that Frankie's life will be in danger. Ray even tells James that he knows about his girlfriend. Reluctantly James agrees to be part of the plan. 

On the day of the heist things go as planned right up to the point when a girl stops right in front of the bank and notices something strange. She sees an armed masked man behind the glass doors and she sees a man dressed the same way sitting in a van parked right in front of the bank. She immediately runs across the street and disappears inside a convenience store. James who's the driver of the van panics and leaves the van to find out what the delay is. The heist was supposed to take all of five minutes. The gunman inside realizing that he's been spotted begins to panic and while James is in the vault rushing the others to finish up, he gets in their getaway vehicle and makes his escape. When James and the rest of the crew walk out of the vault they find their means of escape has gone and the police just arriving. Now they're trapped. A gunfight ensues and Frankie is in the guts. 

See that guy in the middle there? I think he was channeling Denzel Washington throughout the whole movie. ©Saban Films
Ray convinces James to head out the side entrance of the bank to steal another car for them to escape in but when he does only Ray and Sugar get in the car. James refuses to leave without Frankie and runs back into the bank. Ray and Sugar try to escape in the car the road ahead is blocked by a police car which they ram before making their escape on foot. Meanwhile inside the bank James pulls one of the hostages to the front entrance and threatens to kill her to buy time. He then attends to Frankie's wounds. Frankie adamant about not going back to jail to experience the same horrors he went through the last time begins to pummel James in the face, he then puts one of the hostages jacket over James and drags him to the bank's entrance pretending that James is his hostage. But whatever his plan was to escape ends when he is shot in the head. James watches his brother die right in front of his eyes. 

In the shock of his brother's death and his own beating he gets dragged away by the police to an awaiting ambulance. Inside the ambulance as the paramedic begins to undress him to check his vitals he spots the bulletproof vest under James's clothes. Realizing he's been discovered James rains punches on the paramedic before making his escape in the pouring rain. 

The End. Or an abbreviated version of the entire story.

I didn't know Akon could act. I still don't ©Saban Films

So another bank heist movie, could this actually be different than the others? 

Honestly? No. It's your typical heist movie. The jailbird brother trying to make things right with his brother isn't a new thing. Things not going smoothly between the brothers and the gang isn't a new thing. The emotional and personal battle happening between the brothers isn't a new thing. The usual scenes are there too, like the bank heist planning scene where they show us the bank and what's supposed to happen. In short this is a very run of the mill bank heist movie. There's nothing new here at all. It's all been done before. 

So why should you even bother to watch this? Well, like I mentioned before this movie was a collaboration between productions in US and Russia and it was directed by an Armenian director. So you sort of get to see how he interprets an American action movie about a bank heist. That's sort of interesting I guess. His visual style is interesting at moments. But what I found the most amusing is his interpretation of Adrien Brody's character. Here's a skinny white guy who looks like an italian mafia wannabe who acts like a blackman. Odd don't you think? Then there's Ray and Sugar. Their motive behind the bank robbery isn't just for the money but as a sign of a revolution of sorts or was it a message to the financial institution  that they can't do what they want with people's money. I can't remember what it was. Also they way they look and how Tory Kittles carries his role made me think of the Black Panther Party a revolutionary black nationalist and socialist organization back in the 60's and 70's and also Denzel Washington.

Oh yeah, there's a love interest in this movie but the only reason she's there is so that the bad guys can blackmail him by threatening to harm her. ©Saban Films

So why should you watch a movie that's basically just repeating the stereotype of the bank heist movie genre? Well, the only reason you should watch this is to watch Adrien Brody and Hayden Christensen. Both give a pretty impressive performance. Watching Adrien Brody play his role was sort of awkward at first since it doesn't really fit him but after awhile you forget all that. He was that good. And Hayden Christensen was equally as good. I mean the only movie I remember him in was the Star Wars prequels and he was just annoying to watch in those but in this movie I was impressed to say the least. 

Also ever since that movie Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro there's sure to be a scene like this. ©Saban Films

In short, for all intents and purposes this is a very run of the mill action movie about two dysfunctional brothers who make peace with each other while involved in a bank heist. That's it. Whatever manifesto or motive that Ray has for doing the heist is unimportant. The whole story is about the brothers and the two that take on the role did a pretty good job. But I don't know if that's good enough a reason to pay good money to watch this movie. I guess if you've seen everything in the cinemas then there's no harm in watching this movie. Or if you're really curious how Hayden Christensen looks like after all these years or curious about his acting abilities maybe that's a possible reason to go watch this movie. Other than that there's little reason. It's not a bad movie, the production standards are quite good but don't expect anything new, fresh or different from it. 

I'd rate this movie a decent 3 out of 5 but only because I was entertained by the two lead actors and little else. 

Have a look at the trailer and decide for yourself if it's worth watching.

video


THANK YOU TO TGV PICTURES FOR HAVING ME AT THE PRESS SCREENING FOR AMERICAN HEIST!! 





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