It’s been thirteen years since Spike Lee and screenwriter Russell Gerwitz’s clever (ish) heist thriller “Inside Man.” And from the looks of its sequel, “Inside Man: Most Wanted” the cast and crew have been sprinting every day of those past 13 years.
They must have been trying to catch and hold onto some member of the original cast, which included Denzel Washington as the cop, Clive Owen as the head crook, Jodie Foster as the high-priced corporate “fixer” and Christopher Plummer as the unrepentant Nazi behind the scenes.
None were landed for so much as a cameo from this straight-to-video (uh oh) follow-up. But everybody involved seems so winded, as if they know they’re third choice casting decisions and that the script, this time out, is warmed over leftovers.
A Federal Reserve Bank robbery set five years after “the Nazi diamond” heist, “Most Wanted” is a riot of weird accents — and not just those of the Teutonic robbers and “tourists” they take hostage inside the bank. New York cops, bit players and others have a hint of Afrikaans in their speech.
Yeah, it was filmed in South Africa. To save money.
It’s just as well, as this is a dull caper peopled by somewhat colorless players trying to pretend that they’re not working their ways towards the most anti-climactic anti-climax in recent heist picture history.
Aml Ameen (“The Maze Runner”) is the cocky, swaggering NYPD hostage negotiator Remy, boasting “I’m five for five this year” about his record in stand-offs, that “I could talk a scared cat into the water.”
He drops the word “cher” into his speech. And he borders on unprofessional, even if he is lightly New Orleans charming and very quick to size people up by their looks, manner and speech.
How’s he going to click with the top FBI agent on site? That’s Dr. Brynn Stewart (Rhea Seehorn of “Better Call Saul”), who teaches college classes on criminal history and the like. She’s not used to being shadowed by a lowly cop, one with psychology on his side. The head crook (Roxanne McKee of TV’s “Dominion”), the one in charge of this large operation that apparently intended to take 20 hostages in the course of a robbery, wants to communicate in German? Don’t let her. Wait her out.
“Make her start with a loss.”
Stewart sees this as a “copy cat” crime with echoes of the “Nazi diamond heist” in it — a huge haul, lots of hostages and confusion with an elaborate series of mis-directions as the foundation of the get-away plan.
Remy, the negotiator? He’s not so sure.
The gang lady wants to go by “Most Wanted” on the phone, and she’s pretty cavalier about what she lets the cops know about her and her connections.
Remy is all flirtatious charm with the lady bank robber, full of positive reinforcement — “This is a good start!” — and ditzy statements of the obvious to the FBI lady, who isn’t impressed.
“She’s robbing a bank.”
Flashbacks over-explain what these creeps are really up to. The crooks, one brute especially (Urs Rechn), are quick to kill each other off for breaches in protocol.
And none of it is the least bit suspenseful. Screenwriter Brian Brightly was put in a corner and told to write his way out of it. The best he can come up with is “mildly interesting,” and even that only in random moments.
At some point, politics enter into the fray, no doubt shocking viewers taking a break from Fox News to stream this. A villain delivers a lecture on how America is now “weak…a laughingstock,” that all this gold isn’t even really America’s and how US power “is cheap rhetoric.”
There’s nothing here to hold one’s interest more than 30 minutes. By that time, the viewer is as winded as the hapless cast.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Cast: Aml Ameen, Rhea Seehorn, Roxanne McKee and Urs Rechn
Credits: Directed by M.J. Bassett, script by Brian Brightly. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:45