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Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Directed by: Sarik Andreasyan

Starring: Hayden ChristensenJordana BrewsterAdrien Brody, Akon

American Heist is a slick and stylish crime thriller complete with stilted dialogue and a sibling-centric drama at its core that falls flat in the emotional stakes.

Newly-released from a ten year-stint in prison, Frankie (Adrien Brody) spends his first night as a free man with drink, drugs and strippers before looking up little brother Jimmy (Hayden Christensen) and drawing him back into the criminal underworld he’s been trying so hard to escape from. Jimmy, for his part, is looking to open his own, legitimate autoshop and hoping to reconnect with Emily (Jordana Brewster), an old girlfriend who’s just moved back to town and the last thing he needs is another prison stint under his belt.

After their first drink together in ten years turns into Jimmy inadvertently becoming an accessory to murder, the brothers are brought into the grand plans of Ray (Tory Kittles) and Sugar (Aliaune Thiam, better known as Akon to you and me) – namely, robbing a bank while the police are distracted by the fiery explosions Jimmy has rigged across the city.

american-heist-posterAmerican Heist had a strong opening that instantly diminished itself with a flashback, setting the tone for the rather played-out story to follow. Where Frankie comes across as an inept gangster wannabe with bad tattoos, gold chains and the tendency to throw lots of “bro”s and even a “you don’t know what it’s like, man” into conversation, Jimmy is the tormented, reformed ex-con and war veteran who is just trying to be good. In short, it’s a cast full of clichés who behave absolutely as you’d expect them to.

Most of the 90 minute plot runs the same as every other heist movie you’ve ever seen – it’s formulaic and has very few surprises in terms of action twists, bland love interests and conflict resolution – but as generic as it turns out to be, the final half an hour does ultimately provide some edge-of-your-seat moments and emotional payoffs worth waiting for.

If there is one thing American Heist does well, however, it’s the bold cinematography. Stylish shots of New Orleans and bold camera angles and movements make this film an interesting watch, even in spite of its halting narrative and vague, unexplained Marxist undertones.

If you come into this film looking for fully developed characters and justifiable, even logical, actions, you’re bound to be disappointed, but if you’re after a spot of good old-fashioned, gritty, criminal drama and a Rachel Bilson cameo to boot, American Heist is the film for you – as long as you pick it up an hour in.

★★★

Watch a clip from American Heist below:

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