The problem with heist movies is that they’re so insanely difficult to do well. It’s the structure. It’s nearly impossible to structure a heist movie that feels believable while balancing the need for things to go wrong and create conflict, and the ultimate success of the caper not feeling too convenient despite those misteps. One way to solve the latter is to just not have the heist be successful, but that’s tricky too because the audience wants to be able to root for the main characters.
American Heist is about two brothers: Frankie (Adrien Brody; The Jacket) and Jimmy (Hayden Christensen; Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith). Frankie has recently been released from prison and jumps at the opportunity to rob a bank with two guys he used to do time with. He pulls his mechanic brother in as the group’s getaway driver, and that’s about it other than Jimmy resisting until the rest of the gang threaten his budding relationship with ex-girlfriend Emily (Jordana Brewster: Furious 7).
A lot of the plot points that stem from that basic premise are too contrived or clichéd to bother addressing. Basically, someone saw Ben Affleck’s The Town and tried to recreate it point by point with a few minor changes. The story’s boring, the characters are boring, and the actors playing them are clearly phoning this in.
I’ve never been one to condemn an actor for being a part of a terrible franchise. I recently praised the Kristen Stewart drama Camp X-Ray because when the young actress is not making Twilight movies and rather something she actually cares about, she’s an incredible performer. Same goes for Robert Pattinson, who has done some really interesting work since the Twilight series ended. In that same vein, I’m not one to bash Hayden Christensen purely because he made two terrible Star Wars movies. He made a fantastic movie a few years ago called Broken Glass that I highly recommend, but unfortunately I haven’t seen much else with him that I’d recommend, including this. I would probably give Christensen some credit with offering the best performance here, but between his dull girlfriend, who doesn’t even know what a socket wrench looks like, his sniveling idiot brother, and the stereotypical black gangster bank robbers, there’s not a lot of competition.
Adrien Brody is the most disappointing. I always hold out hope that he’s going to give me another The Jacket, or Dummy, but it feels like when he does work, he’s mostly doing these uninteresting paycheck movies. It’s a shame because I’ve seen multiple times what he’s capable of and he just chooses not to do it. Reminds me of Nicholas Cage choosing not to make Adaptation-caliber movies anymore.
Available on blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate on September 8.