What I found very compelling from this film is the fact that the feat featured in this film performed by an ordinary Joe. A teacher nonetheless. Where usually this kind of film escalating its entertainment value by showing the pros to adapt to the situation as they developed during the process, this film shown how our point man stumbles, make mistakes, but picking up the trade as he made many wrong turns and detours. And that’s how this film is compelling to me. Coupled it with a decent storytelling and able point man (Russell Crowe), I had quite an enjoyable time at the cinema. However, it should be noted that even if the film escalates in pace during the final thirty minutes, it takes a leisure pace prior to that point and it might be a turn off to some.
Russell Crowe is John Brennan. He is a community school teacher. Together with his loving wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), and a son, they seem to led a very good life. Until one morning when police busted their home, arresting Lara for the death of her former boss. After a while, when the lights of her trials dimmed, and options runs dry, John who was sure beyond any shred of doubt about his wife’s innocence, took matters into his own hands and went to break her out of prison.
The case with heist film, be it a break-in or break-out, is that most of the time, the film relies on the expertise of the players as they improvise with the not-so-smooth sailing of the plan. Almost in every heist film that I could think of, the plan always gone kaput and the players are forced to formulate a plan B, plan C, and so forth on the spot as the heist was in motion. This, along with the absence of time, and the height of tension during a plan in motion, heightened the excitement in execution and thus, made heist film a run for its money. In this film, the said improvisation is almost entirely based on the frustration. In fact, it is actually more interesting to be a witness to John’s stumbles and flaws as he tried his various options in trying to break-out his wife. He is an ordinary Joe, an amateur, learning to pick a lock and stole a car from a YouTube video and fueled only by desperation and love. Naturally, it would’ve worked much better if you could root for Russell Crowe as the point man. Fortunately, he was in his normal self, which was good, and convincing.
The film’s pace, before the final execution is a path taken leisurely that had it not helped by a decent storytelling and convincing point man it would’ve been triggered many yawns and glances to a watch. As it turns out, although I’m still bearish with Paul Haggis, he had proved himself as once again, a better than average storyteller. I’m enjoying every nook and cranny as the film heaped its thrilling final conclusion. Although really, if you’ve seen the trailer, the film’s adrenaline tone is actually a bit disappointing. It would’ve been much much better had I’ve never seen the trailer before.
Russell Crowe is in his usual self. Portraying more of an awkward citizen from his “A Beautiful Mind” day than an able and confident professional from his “American Gangster” day. Personally, I found that I enjoyed the latter more but it was good enough to drive the film forward. As for his on-screen partner, for me, Elizabeth Banks is, with all due respect, more like a second-hand version of Amy Adams. In other words, I loved her, but she hasn’t ventured into a wider spectrum of roles that had made me fall head over heels with Amy Adams. In my experience, at least, this is might be her first serious role. A departure from her usual comedic role and although it was a short one, this film is mostly Crowe’s anyway, it was a good start. Although I’m not buying most of her stunt at the final moments of the film, but it’s a start and it’s a good one and I’d love to see more of her in the future.
My rating: **1/2 / **** – Decent heist film with a point of view from an amateur ordinary Joe that acted solely based on desperation and out of love. Especially loved the built up as we are shown the stumbles and the fuck-ups as our hero progresses to his goal and picking up the trade as he fall.