American Heist review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Adrien Brody’s career has become a roller coaster ride of massive highs and the lowest of lows. For every Oscar-worthy presence in pictures such as The Pianist, there’s a role in low-rent productions such as InAPPropriate Comedy. How he could look at a role such as Flirty Harry and figure it would be a lark to play an overly gay cop is beyond me. Here we find him trying to play a gangster with a Brooklyn accent, donned in tank-tops, tattoos and gold chains. I admire Brody for taking chances, but after so many movies it may be time to start playing to his more obvious strengths. And an ex-con is certainly not Brody at his best.
It also doesn’t help that he’s working with D-grade actor Hayden Christensen in a rather standard heist plot. They are shooting way too high in this remake of the 1959 picture The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery. Suffice to say, the duo are not exactly up to the level of Steve McQueen. The two actors play brothers with Brody having just gotten out of prison and Christensen leading a straight life as a mechanic. The two find themselves falling on hard times and a bank heist is in order. They round up a crew, gather some guns, dons some bandannas and set off on a crime that surely won’t end in a tragically bloody shootout.
For a small movie with such a simple premise, it could be a decent bit of crime drama. But, oh, how this picture wants to shoot so high and turn up so low. The heist moves along fairly quickly, but soon becomes too big for its own britches. I believe the one point where it went off the rails is when one of the robbers starts firing at a helicopter. The pilot is hit by the bullet and the helicopter smashes into a building where a meeting is taking place. The blades are damaged and the chopper descends to the city streets. The robber has just enough time to turn around and walk away slowly as the helicopter falls to the ground and explodes behind him. It’s one of the oldest action movie cliches and is all the more lackluster by the budgeted computer graphics. Why is the scene in the movie? I guess there weren’t enough explosions.
Despite being out of their league, Brody and Christensen don’t bore. Christensen isn’t exactly a standout actor, but he fits decently into role of a simple and quiet mechanic. I bought him as such a character even if I didn’t feel much for his plight. Brody is a more interesting case in that he’s striving to do well in such a bland role. He doesn’t mesh as well in that it’s hard to believe him playing such a character, but he doesn’t phone in any of it. I kept waiting for that scene where his performance became laughable, but it never came thanks to Brody’s devotion to the character. He posses that grace of words required for an ex-con with a dark history in prison.
Outside of the decent dialogue between our two leads, it’s your standard bank robbery movie. It proceeds through all the necessary beats of the working class wanting more, the doubt in the heist, the acceptance of the heist, the planning of the heist, the execution of the heist and the downfall of the heist. At 94 minutes, first-time director Sarik Andreasyan has done his homework at getting such a story in and out quickly. And while he doesn’t exactly lag in the plot at any point, he doesn’t make it entertaining either. Perhaps he should have taken his time to develop the characters a little more so we can feel just a little more when the bloody shootout begins. Or maybe just enough to not be distracted by the exploding helicopter.