Fresh off his spooky-cute Tales Of Halloween installment, “Friday The 31st”, writer-director Mike Mendez takes on feature-length action-horror with The Last Heist, a Henry Rollins-starring siege movie that gives further insight into Mendez’s skills as a burgeoning genre filmmaker, if not his demonstrable talent as an auteur in the making.
After all, this is the guy who, er, gifted us with Lavalantula and Big Ass Spider, so expecting a tense nail-biter in the vein of, say, Assault On Precinct 13 seems slightly misguided. However, those who dismiss The Last Heist as mindless fluff will be missing out on some terrific performances (particularly from Rollins), a well-executed, suspenseful buildup and an interesting, if slightly obvious, payoff.
The flick follows a group of no-good bank-robbers who, as the title suggests, are about to pull of their last heist at a soon-to-be-closed, isolated financial institution. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, they’ve chosen the same day as an active serial killer (Rollins, dressed like The Punisher–or, more accurately, The Revenger, for old-school Nickelodeon fans) has shown up to withdraw his assets.
A standoff ensues, whereby the team of crooks, and their hostages, are picked off one by one inside the bank while the LAPD-and later the feds–gather outside, trying desperately to dissolve the situation. Allegiances are made and broken, blood is spilled and assets are protected as the situation slowly escalates into all-out warfare, with the spectre of military time served hanging over everything.
It’s an interesting premise, and the zippy run-time (less than 90 minutes, qualifiying the movie for How Did This Get Made? inclusion by virtue of its existence alone) suggests that Mendez, and co-writer Guy Stevenson, aren’t messing around. The action kicks off pretty much immediately, Rollins’ introduction (in slo-mo, for extra badassery) occurring immediately after that of the crims whose identities follow the usual formula (the girl, the wuss, etc).
Punches and kicks are given, but the ensuing sound effects don’t convince.
The fight sequences are badly-choreographed overall and a bit clunky, especially considering they mostly take place in confined spaces. More successful is the gore, which is predominantly courtesy of Rollins’s killer, who saves eyeballs as souvenirs from each of his victims.
Mendez isn’t afraid of a little bloodshed, and he does well on a low budget, knowing when to cut away and leave us to fill in the blanks rather than risk showing something shoddy. It’s just a shame he didn’t focus more on the individual murders–which are scattershot and random–rather than massive shootouts which, again, sound slightly off and don’t entirely convince.
Rollins, who gets highest billing (rightly so), is once again the MVP of The Last Heist. Although his character here is a far cry from his brooding, nuanced Jack in He Never Died, Rollins takes to the thinly-written role with suitable aplomb. He’s mostly tasked with delivering lines about doing God’s work and stabbing people, but he injects his otherwise one-note serial killer with enough edge to invest us in his story.
We can even forgive the fact he’s allegedly crawling around in the building’s air vents (what is this, Jurassic Park?) when that seems highly implausible in what aren’t even movie-sized vents. If anything, one almost wishes the focus had been more on him than on a weird subplot involving brothers and stealing from cartels and being crooked or maybe not.
The various plot threads are handled eloquently by a game cast, aided by a better-than-it-needed-to-be script, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before a hundred times over. Henry Rollins as a loopy serial killer, on the other hand, is something wildly different, something tangible that could root an otherwise low-stakes story in an interesting, heightened reality.
Basically, it’s a decent concept that falls kind of flat by focusing on the wrong characters. One could argue the film is self aware in its goofiness, the robbers so inept they remove their masks and communicate using each others’ real names, while Rollins tells them “I just wanna go home” and “You should leave me alone” with a massive, friendly grin plastered on his face.
The score has a weird, wannabe Dark Knight vibe, to match the attempts at high-stakes action, but the thing is shot through with such wit and panache – “this is L.A.; nothing shocks me anymore” one copper deadpans – and the underlying theme about how difficult it is for ex-soldiers to matriculate back into society so timely, that it makes The Last Heist kind of impossible to hate.
It’s quietly, softly gripping even in spite of the twists being a bit obvious and never less than entertaining. See it for Rollins, stay for the loopy, low-budget, low-stakes fun.
Catch The Last Heist in theaters, on VOD and on iTunes from June 17th, 2016
WICKED RATING: [usr=6]
Director(s): Mike Mendez
Writer(s): Guy Stevenson
Stars: Henry Rollins, Torrance Coombs, Victoria Pratt, Mykel Shannon Jenkins
Studio/ Production Co: Xlrator Media
Release: June 17th, 2016
Length: 84 mins.
Sub-Genre: Action, siege, slashser