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Throughout cinema’s history there have been certain genres that have, and always will, exist: comedy, horror, and the action/thriller. That being said, whenever we see a new take on certain tropes it is fresh, new, and creative. When we see the same thing over and over again, it becomes stale, trite, and cliche. Sarik Andreasyan’s action/crime thriller, American Heist, unfortunately, proves to be the latter.
The film centers around two brothers, James (Hayden Christensen) and Frankie Kelly (Adrien Brody) who have experienced a falling out after Frankie spends 10 years in jail by taking the blame for crime they previously committed. (They might also have a third brother who cannot seem to get his ERA under 5!) Once out of jail Frankie, seemingly wants to make amends with James to his brother’s dismay. After James finally accepts his brother back, Frankie then introduces him to some criminal partners of his from the big house: Sugar (Akon) and Ray (Tory Kittles) – don’t worry there’s a Sugar Ray joke. They, of course, have a genius plan of – stop me if you have heard this before – robbing a bank. Ray justifies his actions by claiming that banks have ruined the “American dream” and this is merely justice. “The American dream is just that…a dream.”
All of this is against James wishes because he wants to get his life on track and put the past behind him. However there’s a girl involved. James falls in love with his former flame Emily (Jordana Brewster), and if he does not comply with Sugar and Ray’s plans they will kill her. They have the perfect plan in place with every meticulous detail drawn out, but, obviously, something goes wrong!
The setting takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana which is almost fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina, which they make reference to early on in the film. The notion of parallelism is apparent that James and Frankie committed their crime 10 years ago, around the same time as the storm, and both the city and James are almost completely healed. One emotionally, and the other physically. In addition to the characters juxtaposition with their city, is that of the two brothers – they are cut from the same cloth, but one clearly wants to better himself. Whereas the other falls into the same felon loop over and over again.
Regarding acting, there’s not a whole lot to work with. Adrien Brody clearly stands out because, frankly (pun intended), his character is the only one that develops through the plot. It is evident that Frankie loves James, but he cannot help himself getting into this trouble because his partners helped him get through jail and he feels that he owes them as well. Essentially, he grows from a low-life criminal to someone who is gaining a conscious, and reuniting with his brother aids with his recovery. There’s one scene in particular which shows Brody’s emotional range, however, because of the cliche tropes used, the script clearly ruins what could have been a sincere moment. “They fucked me in the ass with toothpaste” is the type of line that could ruin any moment really.
Hayden Christensen, on the other hand, stays incredibly one dimensional as some sort of Jersey Shore/mob thug knock off, which is incredibly weird seeing as the film takes place in Louisiana. Sure, there’s a love scene, but even that felt incredibly forced as Emily literally walks into the pouring rain for absolutely no reason and then they start making out. Just think an awkward and forced version of this.
Overall, this was a fairly exciting film. There were car chases, shoot outs, strippers, and violence. The shoot out scenes throughout the robbery were well drawn out with creative cinematography. These type of scenes can easily be executed poorly with either a shaky camera, or cutting scenes too quickly. Andreasyan displays his action scenes naturally, while keeping the audience in the know of who is shooting, running away, and then – consequently – who gets injured.
However, as previously mentioned, this has ALL been done before. Director Sarik Andreasyan kept true to the typical action genre and tropes, which is fine, but he did so worse than most. If you want to see the exact same thing, but a better version, just go see The Town, Public Enemies, or Heat. This movie is perfect if you want 90 minutes of mindless entertainment with not a whole lot of purpose.