It is no secret that Robert De Niro has stopped giving a damn about quality cinema. If you take a look at his filmography since 2001’s Meet the Parents, it is obvious that the man has slipped into a zone where all he cares about is a quick paycheck. He does B grade thrillers and puts all little effort into them as possible, the film eventually bombs, everyone forgets he was in them and he walks away with a wad of cash. It’s a win win for him. The audience, however, is on the loser’s side because every subsequent film of his is worse.
Scraping the bottom of the creative ladder is his new film Bus 657, which in some countries is called Heist. Predictably the film is as achingly generic as its title. Jeffery Dean Morgan plays Luke, a single father who needs a ton of money to treat his sick daughter and approaches a casino boss Francis The Pope (De Niro) for the same. Pope declines and humiliates Luke, and the latter makes a quick decision – to rob Pope’s casino and make off with the money.
The problem, partly due to director Scott Mann’s execution and Max Adam’s script is that everything in this movie feels like a ‘light’ version of other better movies. The casino heist looks like it is ripped off from the Ocean’s 11 films, and later when the action shifts (ridiculously) to a bus, it feels like there’s a hangover of 1994’s Speed. The latter envelops most of the third act, and as the filmmakers try their hardest to pump in some thrills the film turns more and more into unintentionally hilarious territory.
The characters are as cardboard as you expect. There’s a corrupt cop, a tough guy in the heist team, and Gina Carano shows up for the umpteenth time as a muscular gun wielding ass kicking specialist who strains to look badass while surrounded by males. It’s a testament to Steven Soderbergh’s direction in Haywire that he fooled us into thinking she could pack an acting punch.
The writers attempt to give De Niro’s character some heft when it is revealed that he’s suffering from cancer and he has no heir to take his casino kingdom forward. But there’s little the Oscar winner does to make you care about his character. And when you least expect it, Kate Bosworth shows up as his daughter who dramatically rejects her father’s casino empire and leaves the movie, never to come back.
After Fury Road it feels like every movie is going the way of one big chase to fuel the plot, and Heist essentially does the same thing, with a SWAT team trying to catch the bus. But even the action unfortunately is quite low budget and by-the-numbers, making you wonder what is it that you’re supposed to like in the movie.
The film’s other fatal flaw is that it takes itself very seriously – this is a distraction when you’re aware that everything that’s happening in the film is either improbable or stupid. Even a wee bit of self awareness would probably have made Heist passable as a movie that is so bad it is fun, unfortunately as things stand this is a movie that is so bad that it is unwatchable.