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‘The Last Heist’ (review)

the-last-heistProduced by Rick Benattar, Nigel Thomas
Written by Guy Stevenson
Directed by Mike Mendez
Starring Henry Rollins, Torrance Coombs,
Victoria Pratt, Mykel Shannon Jenkins,
Nick Principe, Mark Kelly, Ken Lyle,
Kristina Klebe, Zo Zosak

A group of thieves arrive at a safety deposit box center about to close its doors forever.  The robbery is planned as the last in a handful of raids staged by the crew; as one character mentions, “This was supposed to be the easy one.”

Unfortunately for our criminals, a renowned – and still on the loose – local serial killer is on site, attempting to extract the contents from his safety deposit box, when robbery proper begins.

Pretty cool setup for a pulpy, fun thriller, eh? Couple that with the fact that The Last Heist is directed by genre specialist Mike Mendez and stars Henry Rollins as said serial killer. Sounds like it can’t miss.

I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, but The Last Heist fails to engage, let alone ignite. Rollins gives an acceptable, if cliché-ridden, performance (he’s been much better), but everyone else is uneven at best and just plain bad at worst.

The script technically follows through on the pulpy premise of bank robbers vs. serial killer, but it’s handled without suspense or surprise. Several of the main characters are supposed to be ex-Rangers or retired Marines, yet act as if they’d never had training. The thieves’ actions seem to be completely counter-intuitive and colossally unprofessional. The police shrug off sloppy procedure and don’t seem to have a full grasp of their jobs, either.

Mendez has specialized (with some exceptions) in horror films with a comic bent in fun movies like The Convent and Big Ass Spider! Perhaps he was going for a different kind of comic strain here…? Was it intentional that the only character who seems to know what he or she is doing is the psychotic serial killer? That’s not a terrible theme for a thriller.  Whether that was Mendez and screenwriter Guy Stevenson’s intent, the end result is just off-putting and sidesteps any witty social insight.

It’s just plain frustrating (and dramatically damaging) to watch cops who are bad at their job. Making the majority of the robbery crew horribly obnoxious and idiotic may have been to set up their potential, grisly deaths at the hands of Rollins a lip-smacking experience for the audience, but it just became tedious to watch and listen to these jerks.

I suppose it’s admirable for Mendez and Stevenson to not go the tried-and-true, robbery-gone-wrong route of turning it into a major hostage situation in a large bank full of customers.  But by placing the narrative in a small-scale, nearly-closed safety deposit box center with only a handful of customers, they’ve really diminished the stakes, and with them most of the suspense and potential surprise.

This brings me no pleasure. I had high hopes for this one; as mentioned above, I’ve enjoyed Mendez’s films over the years. And, in fact, I consider his hilarious and ingenious “Friday the 31st” segment of last year’s Tales of Halloween to be a mini-masterpiece.

The Last Heist, on the other hand, is to my mind an unfortunate misfire. Here’s hoping his upcoming Dolph Lundgren-versus-an-ancient-demon-in-Mississippi film, Don’t Kill It, fares better.  Because that sounds awesome.

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