Two wannabe robbers cross their t’s, but forget to dot their i’s in The Heist, a buddy film with a felonious twist.
We’ve all wondered what it would take to pull off the greatest heist. Much needs to be considered. You have the planning stage. Who? What? Where? When? Why? You have the execution stage. How? Finally, you have the getaway and hopefully it’s a clean one. We all think we would do something that the good guys wouldn’t think of, something that would put us in the league of “The Great Train Robbery” of 1963. Alas, most of us don’t get beyond the fantasizing part. We realize it would be too dang tough and besides, we have movies to do that for us and in Alexander J. Greene’s The Heist, we see how our brilliant plan can be undone by falling short on one of the three steps.
The Heist opens on two young men sitting in a car and contemplating their future actions. One has reservations; the other is ready to go. One dresses like a Mr. from Reservoir Dogs, the other is decked out in camouflage like Rambo. One sees the lax security as troublesome; the other sees it as a golden opportunity. Regardless, they muster up their courage, get their guns and break into a supposed jewelry warehouse. They cover the place like skilled tacticians, hitting every corner and ready for any security guard that gets in their way, but nothing happens. They soon realize something is amiss. Where’s the jewelry? Uh oh, someone read the map wrong! Damn those Google maps.
The Heist movie is a staple in filmdom. We have been given countless titles, we have seen countless ingenious ways to pull off a robbery and we’ve seen it all hit the fan by film’s end with at least a body or two in its wake. Outside of the title, we are given none of that in The Heist. Here we just see the robbery, nothing much before and nothing at all after. Alexander J. Greene, the film’s writer, director and co-producer, hits all the notes for a heist film and though it is not bad, it is nothing new. The opening of the film is painted in broad strokes with the Tarantino paint brush, all the way to the “opening the trunk” shot, which we see every year (next to the hand in tall grass shot from Gladiator). The writing and acting will not blow you away. Both are amusing in their own right and in lesser hands it could come off as imitation. Imitating whom, I wonder? But what makes this film enjoyable is the chemistry between the two leads. Peter Taylor and Mike Howard, the only actors in the film, have a good rapport right from the beginning. It is safe to assume that these two characters have known each other since childhood. They hit the right nerves with each other, and then quickly say the right words to smooth things over again. Outside of the actors’ chemistry, the film also features decent camera work and editing. The shaky cam has been used before, but you shouldn’t be watching this film for originality. Just look at the title. The Heist is more of a homage to the genre, and in that sense, the cinematography is well done and the editing tight and effective.
It’s hard to be original in this genre and very few films are. Most of the ones’ that stick have a saving grace, be it a twist, actor chemistry or a serious focus on part of the operation, like Dassin’s execution of the robbery and beautiful attention to detail in Riffi. The Heist may not have a saving grace to transcend its class, but it has enough of the checklist covered to make it an amusing genre piece.