The Hurricane Heist Review
So bad it's almost good. Almost.
Rob Cohen, the man behind the very first The Fast and The Furious film writes and directs this cheesy so-bad-it's-almost-good actioner about a heist... in a hurricane.With films like The Fast and The Furious, XXX and Stealth under his belt, it's understandable to write off Cohen as an action-directing one-trick-pony, albeit a not incompetent one. Later efforts like the abortive Tyler Perry take on the James Patterson / Alex Cross franchise and the, Jennifer Lopez vehicle, The Boy Next Door appear to be that all Cohen is really good at - if he's good at anything - delivering modest budget high octane action flicks that have a Michael Bay-lite feel, only without quite as much freneticism.However, unbelievable as it may seem, half a Century ago Cohen made his name as the man who discovered the script for the excellent Redford/Newman re-teaming, The Sting. There's no doubt that he has taste, it's just a shame that he hasn't really used it in years, with his latest 90s Michael Bay-lite flick cheesy enough to give Besson's b-movie actioners a run for their money. It's harmlessly throwaway entertainment, if you're in the right forgiving mood, but it really has come about 20 years too late to the party.
A couple of high tech hackers join forces with a corrupt Treasury agent to raid a secure US Treasury facility, planning to use the incoming Category 5 hurricane to mask their heist. They find their plan complicated by a disparate group of individuals: a young Treasury agent (Maggie Grace - the Taken Trilogy), who survives their assault, as well as two local brothers who have faced storms before, one an ex-marine (Ryan Kwanten - True Blood, Red Hill) and one a eye-of-the-storm-driving meteorologist (Toby Kebbell - Warcraft, War for the Planet of the Apes).
90s action fans will be distinctly familiar with the themes here; this is the same cheesy territory that fueled the 1998 heist-in-the-middle-of-a-flood flick Hard Rain, starring Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater (ironically, both Hard Rain and The Hurricane Heist were retitled after their producers raised concerns about them sounding too much like disaster flicks - they were originally 'The Flood' and 'Category 5', respectively). It's also familiar territory when you look at that era because there were dozens of films which were using a Die Hard-esque heist (thinly veiled under a terrorist angle) premise where an unlikely individual has to take on a group of robbers who are using some elaborate scheme to make money (including outlandish skydiving robbers in Drop Zone or mountain mayhem in Cliffhanger), however, in the absence of a named star, Cohen attempts to fill the void with storm action instead. He's got plenty of form for this; the first The Fast and The Furious film repurposed the story to Point Break with a (then)no-name cast and plenty of car chases, but Vin Diesel, back before his ego started writing cheques his body couldn't cash, had enough screen presence to make it work.
In 2018 it doesn't quite work, trading hard in the genre's tropes but neither having enough commitment to fully embrace its status as a throwback actioner (it's got such a low bodycount it could have been PG), nor having the budget to realise any striking action sequences. There are flourishes, with the middle act making something of a fun little storm truck, but it's mostly just bad dialogue, messy performances, and muted gunplay, and it's clear they saved the majority of the $38M budget for the last ten minutes, and a scene which Cohen handled far better twenty years ago in his own The Fast and The Furious.
The 90s Michael Bay-lite flick is cheesy enough to give Besson's b-movie actioners a run for their money.
Maggie Grace is much more tolerable when she's not employing the Grenadar(TM) she became famous for in the Taken movies, playing a tougher role which really should have been the focal point, instead of being split between Grace, Kebbell (in a rare heroic role) and Home and Away veteran Ryan Kwanten (who inexplicably spends the majority of the movie incapacitated and is the world's worst ex-Marine) to offer a more shotgun approach towards broadly-painted protagonists. For Cohen clearly the storm's the key, but with neither a strong hero - or anti-hero - presence, nor even a scenery-chewing villain actor on hand (Brit actor Ralph Ineson, from Game of Thrones and The Witch, fumbles his way around something which really needed a Lithgow or a Hopper), and without the budget to go full Emmerich (2012), The Hurricane Heist feels like a misfire on all counts.
This Sky Cinema Original certainly has a different flavour to its Netflix Original counterparts, and some might find that a little refreshing, with a slick veneer that makes it feel more like a movie (albeit b-movie, or straight-to-DVD) rather than that now-commonplace Netflix look. It's also hardly going to be regarded as a contender which just went wrong (c.f. Duncan Jones' Mute), and instead largely knows exactly what it wants to be, and, for good and bad, doesn't really have any pretentious aspirations about wanting to be anything else. Between the hurricane and the hit and miss action, Cohen may well capture the interest of those who have fond memories of Twister and his first Fast and Furious flick, but you have to be pretty forgiving to make it undistracted through this latest vehicle. Indeed it may well be better enjoyed as an unintentional parody; an almost so-bad-it's-good flick which you can kind of understand being called "the Sharknado of heist movies", something of a mixed comparison which only further highlights the 'ambitions' of this project.
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