Heist (2015), dir. Scott Mann, screenplay Stephen Cyrus Sepher and Max Adams. 1hr 33min. With Robert DeNiro, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dave Bautista, Gina Carano, Morris Chestnut, Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
Even though this got only one star out of four on RogerEbert.com, I found it to be a pleasant surprise, a good-looking direct-to-streaming release with big names, location shooting and a fair size budget.
Heist is a casino caper morphed into a hostage thriller. A casino dealer (Morgan) needs $300K for his daughter’s cancer surgery, and teams up with a security guard (Bautista) to rob the Alabama casino owned by the ruthless veteran Mr. Pope (DeNiro). When Pope isn’t attending parties on his vintage steamboat casino, he’s torturing folks who steal from him or laundering money for the local Alabama gangs.
In the middle of the heist, the getaway driver hears shots and abandons the crew. Without wheels, the thieves flee on foot and end up hijacking a city bus. For the rest of the movie, they’re on the bus being chased by Pope’s goons (led by the sadistic Chestnut), or in negotiations with a sympathetic renegade cop (Carano) and a sleazeball dirty cop (Gosselaar).
Sometimes movies with a casino theme also hint at magic and sleight-of-hand. “Heist” drops such a hint at the beginning, and it evokes a satisfying surprise ending.
Another surprise was the cast. DeNiro takes obvious pleasure in his role as the doyen of casino owners. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has the grizzle and delivery of a Western hero, like a more cynical Sam Eliott with less “Aw shucks.” Dave Bautista and Gina Carano are MMA imports to Hollywood. They’ve got great screen presence, and it’s fun waiting for them to kick azz.