There’s no one “Eureka!” moment when “Echo Boomers,” a fictionalized “political statement” burglary version of “The Bling Ring,” goes wrong.
It’s a solid enough heist picture, with the hook that the thieves are all aggrieved millennials lashing out at a “fixed” economy by stealing from the rich, and trashing their mansions as they do. But as it marches down a well-worn path to a conclusion we see coming well in advance, investment in the characters flags and interest in their fates vanishes, like all the cash these 20somethings are “earning” and burning through.
Patrick Schwarzenegger is the lead, and is adequate in the role of “the conscience” of this gang. Until he starts voice-over narrating their story. The framing device is interviews being conducted by an author (Lesley Anne Warren) who talks to Lance (Schwarzenegger) and others in prison. Schwarzenegger reads the voice-over as if he’s woodenly reciting lines he’s never rehearsed.
Lance comes to Chicago after college with $60,000 in student loans and little prospect of ever paying them back thanks to his degree in art. His cousin Jack (Gilles Geary) promises to hook him up with his “start up.” Jack picks him up in a Porsche Cayenne, so “the good life” beckons, right?
Lance meets Jack’s associates and half-notices the stick-on sign peeling off the panel truck they need for their work. No worries, Lance. You’ll be working with art, “in acquisitions.”
His first clue that they’re thieves is when he’s handed a skeletal mask, they pile out of the truck and break into a suburban mansion.
He is slack jawed at the destruction he witnesses. Ally (Haley Law), Chandler (Reggie Law), Stewart (Oliver Cooper) and the rest don’t just steal — they shatter, rip, spray paint and utterly trash these monuments to affluence, “destroying someone else’s life” in a vendetta against the one percent.
It isn’t until after the smash-and-grab-and-smash that he gets the sales pitch for “joining.” That’s ridiculous, but then again, they’ve already made him an accomplice.
“Don’t you feel cheated?” leader Ellis (Alex Pettyfer) asks. All this playing by the rules — good college, good grades — got them all nothing but debt. “We’re not just stealing. We’re sending a MESSAGE!”
Michael Shannon is properly menacing as the fence who gives them addresses (provided by Big Insurance) and underpays and threatens them when they screw up.
Considering how they party and snort away their profits, time and again, there’s a lot of screwing-up going on.
Lance narrates this story, passing along the “rules” to this enterprise — “When the system’s corrupt, why play by their rules?” is one. “If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep” is another.
What director Seth Savoy’s film (he’s also one of three credited screenwriters) is aiming for is a sort of “Point Break” sympathy for the gang of “misfits,” and “Boomer” never comes close to achieving that.
There are montages capturing the way cable news labels and shames millennials and recreating the awful economic prospects that generation faces when it enters the workforce. But then Ally drags Lance along for drinks with her college buddies, who have Peace Corps work behind them, professional success and budding families. Yes, they probably had advantages. But they’re millennials and they’re making it.
And then there’s the business of hiring a middling actor with a famous surname to star in your movie about have-nots who never had a shot stealing from the super rich to “get even.” There’s a disconnect there.
“Mixed messaging” drags on the script, basically from start to finish. The idealism espoused loses its bite when you’re sticking it up your nose.
The heists skip over the details — “grace notes” — that would showcase why they need Lance in their gang. He knows real art and what has value. Why not have him explain this vase, that painting or sculpture? Was the leading man not up to it?
And the prison interview framing device takes more of the mystery away than it should.
There are good players surrounding Schwarzenegger, so at least he’s taken that old Hollywood actor’s adage to heart — “Always try to work with Michael Shannon.”
But “Echo Boomers” — terrible title, BTW — can’t get by on echoes of better thrillers that covered the same ground. And betting on Schwarzenegger making the family name an acting dynasty seems like a long shot, even in a business known for its nepotism.
MPA Rating: R for drug use and pervasive language
Cast: Patrick Schwarzenegger, Alex Pettyfer, Haley Law, Lesley Anne Warren and Michael Shannon.
Credits: Directed by Seth Savoy, script by Kevin Bernhardt, Jason Miller and Seth Savoy. A Saban release.
Running time: 1:34