Heist is the offspring of John Q and Speed. There’s a heist, a hijacked bus, hostages, and a sympathetic lead.
In this case, we have Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Luke Vaughn, a blackjack dealer for a casino boat run by mob boss Francis “The Pope” Silva (Robert DeNiro, who else?). Turns out Vaughn used to run with Silva’s crew until he decided to settle down and have a family. Now, Vaughn’s daughter has cancer and needs $300,000 for a life-saving operation. Silva refuses to loan the money and Vaughn is tossed out on his rear by the Pope’s chief enforcer Derrick Prince (Morris Chestnut).
With no other options, Vaughn accepts the proposal by hulking security guard Jason Cox (Dave Bautista) to rob the casino vault. Silva launders money for the Chinese Triads so there will be millions in the bank and he’s not likely to call the police. Naturally, the heist goes bad when one of the thieves is shot and the getaway driver makes a break for it without the crew. Vaughn, Cox, and a wounded Dante (Stephen Cyrus Sepher, who also co-wrote the script) are forced to hijack a bus to escape.
Former MMA fighter Gina Carano is the tough cop playing the Al Powell role to Morgan’s John McClane. Meanwhile, Zack Morris himself is the relentless detective dogging Vaughn at every turn.
One of the aspects that made Speed so successful was that the passengers on the bus were an integral part of the film. You grew emotionally attached to them whereas the passengers in Heist are about as generic as the title of the movie (It was originally called, Bus 657). There’s not much more to them than the type of basic description you might see in a casting call: pregnant woman, nerdy Asian guy, and gun-toting militiaman.
At least, the main players are talented enough to keep your attention as the story plows numerous clichés. DeNiro is such an old hand at these roles that he could probably play mobster in his sleep. There’s some fun in watching Morgan and Bautista attempt to out-gruff each other.
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The transfer is pristine with heavy use of shadows. Yet, the picture avoids the murkiness that befalls other releases.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Dialogue comes in crisp and clear with the bus sequences best utilizing the surround sound.
The DVD includes an audio commentary with Scott Mann, co-writer Max Adams, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The trio discusses working on a short schedule and limited budget, casting, and the writing process.
The Making of Heist (15:11) is the standard behind-the-scenes featurette. There are also extended interviews with Scott Mann, Max Adams, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kate Bosworth (whose interview may be longer than her screen time), Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Gina Carano, Morris Chestnut, and D.B. Sweeney.
Rounding out the extras are deleted scenes and trailers for other Lionsgate releases.
Film Value: 4
The A-list cast makes Heist a cut above the rank and file generally found in the direct-to-video section. It’s such a shame that the filmmakers couldn’t give the cast and the audience something more interesting.