“The Last Heist” is the kind of action thriller that should only be watched on a lazy weekend afternoon at home, maybe while you’re doing chores and don’t have to pay too much attention. It doesn’t require any brain space, though it’s chock-full of twists, turns and grabs at relevance with references to political and social issues. But it announces everything from 10 feet away and, surprisingly, there’s not a lick of mystery or suspense to be found in a film about a team of bank robbers who find themselves barricaded in a bank with a serial killer.
It looks and feels so much like a student film that it’s pretty surprising to discover that director Mike Mendez is an experienced horror director, with 10 credits under his belt, and writer Guy Stevenson is a veteran writer and actor. The whole thing takes place in one dour abandoned office building and one boring, basic parking lot, with cop cars and extras in uniform. Perhaps budget constraints got in the way of the production value, but there have been lower-budget projects that have looked and seemed more professional than this.
The story, which relies heavily on coincidence and happenstance, involves a team of criminals intent on robbing a bank that’s in the last days of closing down, and in the process of emptying out customer safety deposit boxes. They just so happen to invade the bank while the notorious “Windows” serial killer (Henry Rollins) is in the vault retrieving some gruesome valuables. To top it off, the bank manager, Danny (Michael Aaron Milligan), happens to be the estranged brother of Paul (Torrance Coombs), the guy in charge of robbing the bank.
When LAPD Detective Pascal (Victoria Pratt) is called to the scene, Paul and crew find themselves under pressure from inside and out. They don’t realize the mystery civilian in the bank is Los Angeles’ most wanted serial killer, though he’s methodically picking off members of their team, while lecturing them about religion and healthy eyes and then scooping out their peepers. Worst. Optometrist. Ever.
One of the running themes throughout the film has to do with military service and PTSD. Paul and Danny are vets, though they’ve become estranged due to their different life paths post-war. Pascal also connects with Paul, as she lost her husband in combat. Somehow this is supposed to explain why Paul commits these crimes, and his military past is connected to the Department of Defense operations team who wrest control of the operation from Pascal.
There are so many elements thrown at this story: military vets, religious serial killers, government corruption, oh and drug cartels, for crying out loud. And yet, for all of the over-complications, there are no stakes and no intrigue. Every character states what’s happening, what they’re going to do and how they feel. Subtext? Nope. Parceling out information? Nah.
It’s fun to see Rollins as the meticulous Windows killer, but you feel robbed that he’s relegated to the sideshow and not the main attraction. “The Last Heist” seems to be going for a throwback, ’90s-style, catch-it-on-TNT thriller vibe, but the execution is so lackluster, the acting so wooden, the story so convoluted and yet so straightforward, that it’s not even worth your full attention.
The Last Heist
☆ out of 5
Cast: Henry Rollins, Victoria Pratt, Michael Aaron Milligan, Torrance Coombs, Mark Kelly.
Director: Mike Mendez.
Running time: 1:25.
Rated: No MPAA rating, but would most likely be R for violence.
Note: The movie is being released simultaneously in theaters, video on demand and iTunes Friday.