'Echo Boomers': Film Review

Echo Boomers
Saban Films
The "OK Boomer" of heist movies.
11/13/2020

Patrick Schwarzenegger and Michael Shannon star in Seth Savoy's thriller about a millennial gang of art thieves.

They don't make heist movies like they used to. You used to be able to see films like The Killing, Rififi and The Italian Job and simply relish the fiendishly clever methods with which criminals executed their elaborate robberies. Seth Savoy's debut feature attempts to update the venerable genre by adding sociological themes to the mix, making a social statement about how today's millennials are forced to pursue a life of crime because of unjust economic opportunities. The result is that the slackly paced Echo Boomers has all the excitement of a feature-length essay in The Nation.

The film, apparently loosely based on a true story (the intro is coy about it), revolves around the central character of Lance (Patrick Schwarzenegger, not equaling the charisma of his famous father), a recent college graduate with a major in art history and a big load of student debt who discovers that there isn't a plethora of job opportunities available to him (well, duh). So he naturally takes up the offer of his cousin Jack (Gilles Geary) to come to Chicago and take a position at a "start-up."

It turns out that Jack is a member of a gang composed of similarly disaffected young people, including an embittered Afghan war vet (naturally), who rob wealthy people's homes of valuable artworks, vandalizing the residences in the process as a way of making a social statement. Lance is assigned the task of identifying the most valuable artworks so they can be more easily fenced by the gang's overseer Mel (Michael Shannon).

There's not a lot of suspense as to the story's outcome, since it's framed as flashbacks recounted by an imprisoned Lance to a writer (Lesley Ann Warren, not given enough to do) interested in telling the gang's story. To make sure we fully appreciate the film's efforts at significance, screenwriters Kevin Bernhardt, Jason Miller and Savoy begin with clips from real-life news stories in which we see an assortment of famous broadcasters telling tales of economic inequality.

Adding to the pretentiousness are the onscreen titles relating the "rules" that Lance learned during his criminal activities, such as "The best things in life are expensive," and a depiction of how the criminals work out their psychological issues by, among other things, setting fire to family photos and destroying children's toys. It makes you long for the days when movie criminals were merely psychopaths.

All of this might even have been palatable if the characterizations were more interesting, but the thieves, including unofficial leader Ellis (Alex Pettyfer) and his girlfriend Allie (Hayley Law), are a bland lot, and the attempts at dramatic tension via Ellis' growing resentment of Lance's close relationship with Allie feel forced.

The only scenes that crackle with dramatic intensity are, not surprisingly, the ones featuring the typically superb Shannon as the mercurial middleman who has little patience for such screw-ups as a torn painting. The role plays to the actor's strengths, as he keeps us constantly guessing when his character will explode and what form that will take.

The heists themselves, filmed in frenetically flashy style, prove of little interest, unless you enjoy the sight of millennials acting out. And for that, all you have to do is hang out at Starbucks.

Available in theaters and digital formats
Production companies: Speakeasy and Weg, Dark Dreams Entertainment
Distributor: Saban Films
Cast: Patrick Schwarzenegger, Gilles Geary, Hayley Law, Olivia Cooper, Jacob Alexander, Lesley Ann Warren, Kate Linder, Alex Pettyfer, Michael Shannon
Director: Seth Savoy
Screenwriters: Seth Savoy, Jason Miller, Kevin Bernhardt
Producers: Mike D. Ware, Matthew G. Zamias, Byron Wetzel, Sean Kaplan, Jason Miller, Kelli Mi Li
Executive producers: Jeff G. Waxman, Alex Pettyfer, James Ireland, Nadine de Barros, Robert Ogden Barnum, David Gendron, Ali Jazayeri, Al Zaleski, Jeffrey Tutor, John Demarco, Luke Daniels, Sandra Siegal, Eric Brenner, Tom Gordon, Michael Carroll, Omer H. Paracha, Alan Pao, Sharad Chib, Chris Paladino, Frankie Ordoubadi, Ted Reilly, Kelly Waller, Carlos Cusco, Andrew Davies Ganz
Director of photography: Carlos Veron
Production designer: Adri Siriwatt
Editors: Ken O'Keefe, Dean Gonzales
Composer: Dara Taylor
Costume designer: Anna Hayes
Casting: Henry Russel Bergstein, Allison Estrin

Rated R, 94 min.