I could write a nostalgic piece about how, once upon a time in a far away time and place, Robert de Niro’s name on a marquee was a sign of quality. Or I could write a snarky article about paycheque movies and taking roles for the cash. Maybe a generic What the heck happened to Robert de Niro? Column would be in order.
Either way, any of those topics could be easily folded into a review of “Heist,” a flaccid new crime drama that adds nothing to Mr. De Niro’s legacy except, perhaps, for a dollars in his bank account.
The great thespian plays Mr. Pope— famous as The Pope to all those who know and fear him. For thirty years he’s run The Swan Casino with an iron fist. No compromises. Bottom line, if you steal from him you die. Ten dollars to ten million dollars, the consequences are the same. “Nobody steals from The Swan not because it’s Fort Knox but because everyone is afraid of The Pope,” says Vaughn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), but that doesn’t stop him from coordinating a robbery that will net him and his co-conspirators Cox (Dave Bautista) and Dante (Stephen Cyrus Sepher) three million in cash. Vaughn needs the money to pay for an operation for his daughter and he’s desperate enough to cross The Pope to get the money.
Things go wrong and soon Vaughn, Cox and Dante are on a bus filled with civilians zooming their way to freedom with The Pope’s henchmen (Morris Chestnut) and the police (led by fighter Gina Carano) in hot pursuit.
The first time De Niro starred in a heist movie directed by someone with the last name Mann we got “Heat,” a genuinely exciting action movie. This time around director Scott Mann has cast De Niro in a movie with a generic title to match its characters and direct-to-video feel. Part “Speed” and part every other heist film ever made, “Heist” relies on implausible plot twists—like cops who break the law to aid the bad guys because one of the hijackers had “a reassuring voice”—and clichés to tell its weak-tea story.
One exchange between The Pope and his henchman sums up the entire movie.
“Looks like they’re running to the border!”
“Cliché,” says The Pope.
Yes it is Bob, and so is the rest of the movie.