'Heist': Film Review

A B-move thriller that goes down easily.

Robert De Niro and Jeffrey Dean Morgan star in this thriller about a casino robbery gone awry.

Robert De Niro is the sun around which the talented supporting players orbit in in Scott Mann's crime drama that mainly serves to jog memories of a far better De Niro crime drama also directed by someone named "Mann," namely Michael Mann's Heat. Continuing the actor's late-career propensity for appearing in questionable vehicles, Heist nonetheless has a B-movie appeal thanks to its strong ensemble and wacky commitment to its overcomplicated, wildly absurd plotting. If double features still existed, this would make the perfect bottom half.

Although De Niro provides the marquee value, it's Jeffrey Dean Morgan, displaying his typical world-weary charisma and sporting the extreme facial stubble of which he's become increasingly fond, who plays the lead role of Vaughn, an employee at a riverboat casino run with an iron hand by a gangster named Pope (De Niro).

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When Vaughn asks his boss for a $300,000 loan to pay for his dying little girl's lifesaving operation — yes, it's that kind of movie — he's rudely rebuffed and violently sent packing by Pope's vicious enforcer Dog (Morris Chestnut). So he decides to take up his hulking co-worker Cox's (Dave Bautista, Guardian of the Galaxy and Spectre) offer of joining an inside-job robbery.

Needless to say, the plan goes awry, with Vaughn and his criminal cohorts (including one played by co-screenwriter Stephen Cyrus Sepher) having to hijack a city bus to make their escape. They're hotly pursued by the police — including sympathetic detective Kris (Gina Carano, Haywire), who defies direct orders by letting them get past a roadblock — as well as Pope and his minions, eager to get the gang because the stolen $3 million is illegal laundered money. On the bus, Vaughn proves himself the voice of sanity, placating the passengers (even the one who pulls a knife on him) and trying to keep the hot-headed Cox under control before violence breaks out.

Even as the film threatens to turn into a slower-paced variation on Speed, it throws in enough twists and turns to make one's head spin, with several characters and situations not as they first appear. Whether or not you'll buy the ridiculous dialogue and plot contrivances depends on your willingness to suspend disbelief on such details as a hospital being willing to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash minutes before an operation.

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But under Mann's efficient direction, the pace never lags long enough to dwell on such matters. And when things do slow down, it's mainly so De Niro can provide some much-needed depth to his character, most notably in an emotionally tense reunion between Pope and his estranged daughter (Kate Bosworth). And later, when Pope and Vaughn have their fateful final encounter, the veteran actor delivers enough subtle grace notes to remind you that he's worth all the money he gets.

Production: Emmett Furla Oasis Films, Sivler Plans Films, Trivision Pictures, Mass Hysteria Entertainment Company
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dave Bautista, Kate Bosworth, Gina Carano, Morris Chesnut, Mark-Paul Gosselaar
Director: Scott Mann
Screenwriters: Stephen Cyrus Sepher, Max S. Adams
Producers: Randall Emmett, George Furla, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Stephen Cyrus Sepher, Alexander Tabrizi
Executive producers: David Gilbery, Mark Stewart, Anthony Jabre, Steven Galanis, Vance Owen, Adam Goldworm Beth Holden Garland, Daniel Grodnik, Montgomery Blencowe, Ted Fox, Corey Large
Director of photography: Brandon Cox
Production designer: Thomas William Hallbauer
Editor: Robert Dalva
Costume designer: Rachel Stringfellow
Composers: James Edward Barker, Tim Despic

Rated R, 93 minutes

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