Director(s): Sarik Andreasyan
Writer(s): Raul Inglis
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Adrien Brody, Jordana Brewster, Tory Kittles and Aliaune "Akon" Thiam
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Jul 24, 2015 - Wide
In American Heist, which is getting a cinematic and VOD release, Frankie Kelly (Adrien Brody) has survived prison, doing a ten year stint inside for a crime that he took the fall for. His younger brother, James (Hayden Christensen), has benefited from his brother’s sacrifice and has begun to build a life for himself. He’s connecting with an old flame, Emily (Jordana Brewster) and trying to get his own auto shop off the ground. When Frankie visits him and introduces him to two associates, Sugar (Akon) and Ray (Tory Kittles), James finds himself drawn against his will into their criminal past. The brothers are faced with the prospect of a major heist, one that will change both of their lives forever.
This American-Russian co-production almost makes you wish for the days of Cold War animosity, as that would have perhaps prevented this project from getting off the ground. Directed by Russian wunderkind Sarik Andreasyan and written by Raul Inglis, the film is so predictable that if you scratched away the paint, you’d see the numbers underneath. All the drinking game elements are here. We get the older brother who’s the screw-up, we get the younger brother who is trying to be on the straight and narrow but falls back into his criminal past fast enough to get whiplash and we get the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it girlfriend action on the side.
Brewster handles herself fine in her limited role, which mainly has her standing in the rain and bringing cold drinks to Christensen’s character. I’d suggest a hot drink, something to melt the ice in Hayden’s performance. Sadly, his range here is still stuck in the same kind of angry pouting that he displayed in the last Star Wars prequel when Obi Wan and Anakin were fighting. On the other end of the emotive scale is Brody, who seems to have been dared to fit every facial expression he could think of in the films 94 minute running time. At least he’s interesting to watch, but every conversation he and Christensen have seems to have been written by somebody listening to Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets through a wall. They may have the same rhythm, but they don’t have the same heft. Akon, who also worked on the rap-heavy soundtrack, is not given much more to do than act threatening while Tory Kittles’ Ray is given almost laughable expository lines about the banking system. I wasn’t quite sure if he was a the leader of the heist or an organizer at Occupy Wall Street. If the film was a little bit longer, I’m sure we’d get a lecture on leveraging derivatives.
Speaking of derivative, that’s the end result of Andreasyan’s direction and Inglis’ script. Every scene and line of dialogue reminds you of another crime film where it was done better. The film’s titular heist in the final act stops the talking and brings on the action and firepower, but again, that too was done better in the Pacino/De Niro film Heat. So much of the film seems based on crime films set in New York that it would explain why nobody in this New Orleans-based movie sounds like they’re actually from the Big Easy.
Early in the film, James is told to ditch his car. He should have taken American Heist with it.