This movie review is limited to the first 15 minutes of the film and referred to in general throughout.
The Last Heist is a action film written by Guy Stevenson, writer for MadTV and a single episode of Mike Tyson Mysteries, and directed by Mike Mendez of Mega Spider and Midgets vs Mascots fame. The story centres around a bank heist that descends into violent chaos when one of the hostages turns out to be a serial killer. Trapping the well-organized team of bank robbers in the building, the killer is now picking them off one by one.
First, let’s take a look at the eight bank robbers central to the story. We’ve got:
- Paul – Retired army veteran with accolades out the wazoo leading the team (with no stomach for killing)
- Tracey – Generic tom-boy with a lack of respect for authority and a vulgar attitude (as well as a penchant for leaving no witnesses)
- Ally – Girl-power British side-kick secretly supporting a mutiny
- AJ – Awkward middle-aged man with no real training and a heart of gold
- Biggs – Generic British hard-man
- Rick – Wreck-of-a-human-being getaway driver snorting coke before being confronted by the police
- Washington – And, finally, we have generic wise black guy who serves no real purpose to the plot but to make us feel like shit’s really hit the fan this time.
We start right off the bat with some pretty terrible character exposition as all the bank robbers sit shoulder-to-shoulder in the back of a white, unmarked van. Paul reminds everyone to check their weapons to ensure “the safety is on and there are no bullets in the chamber” in a terrible tet-a-tet with Tracey who shoots back with a childish middle finger and her distaste at the lack of killing. An obvious foreshadowing that yes, in fact, there will be tremendous amounts of blood. Every syllable spoken in the back of that van serves only to reinforce each thief’s stereotypical archetype.
The ‘brilliant’ twist, and first feeling of a Tarrantino influence, in this generic bank heist is that the thieves are, unknowingly, trapped inside the bank with the serial “Windows” killer. Sounding more like a kid with a floppy drive and an obsession with sticky keyboards, we’re introduced to this character as a tall, mysterious hermit who hasn’t heard the bank is closing but would urgently like to empty his safety deposit box. This is also the first piece of a very small pie of good acting we’ll nibble on in this movie as Henry Rollins plays the serial killer astoundingly well. In an effort to persuade another client to surrender their spot to him, he leans in close, dons a pair of large glasses that magnify his eyes to a puppy-dog quality and a thin smile that unnerves me in a way I can’t quite describe. The innocence and charm quickly give way to an impending creepiness as the sound director finally chimes with something appropriate and the unwavering gaze of Henry Rollins stares slightly off-centre from the camera.
For me, the point at which I truly knew this was going to be a wild ride of bad-acting and terrible writing was as a teller emerges from the vault after the heist has begun. Paul lets out an exasperated “awh shit… sorry Danny…” and proceeds to completely abandon his face mask, his hidden identity and the last shred of realism this movie will see. Expositional overload occurs as Paul and Danny share the astoundingly coincidental fact that they’re brothers and that “Danny wasn’t supposed to be here today” as if this is a foundation-laying plot development less than 15 minutes into the movie (hint: it’s not). At a point in the film, they proceed to flesh out both Paul and Danny’s past in the vaguest, generic ‘we were in the army together’ kind of plot lines that only thinly link the two siblings. Told only that Paul’s been off-the-grid for a number of years, there is no explanation as to how Paul became a bank robber, his motivations or really any kind of meaningful back-story at all. At many points in the film, we, the audience, are left with an empty feeling as developments occur with no real feeling of consequence to this two-dimensional walking stereotype.
I’ve mentioned a Tarantino influence previously in this review and no more is that apparent than in the grossly overdone gore but, while Tarantino went for over-the-top violence in a fashion to evoke a sense of theatrics, playfulness and meaning to each death, The Last Heist shies away from showing the killing blow in every relevant scene. Exposed only to gashes, stabbing and clothes drenched in blood, we’re never given the luxury of seeing the Windows killer actually kill someone. As a result, the character remains an ex-machina for the film to throw about as it wishes with no real sense of the danger he poses. Leaving only bloody crime scenes for the camera to masturbate to, the writing and cinematography do a disservice to Henry Rollins’ wonderful acting as the killer.
The Tarantino influence extends into the writing too. I won’t expose the main plotlines but gun scenes and standoffs often felt very like Reservoir Dogs in their aftermath and Django Unchained in their execution. This movie disgraces both by completely missing the meaning and message of either yet trying desperately to crowbar both into the movies direction. In tandem, the cinematography and sound direction leave bullet impacts feeling incredibly lackluster and the poor writing leaves several comebacks hanging in mid-air without any satisfying form of conclusion.
Overall, The Last Heist tries desperately to be a Tarantino movie with the violence, gore and George R.R. Martin-esque character deaths but with sub-par writing, acting, cinematography and awkward character interaction.