A bank heist, “a case” snatched from a safe deposit box, a “stick to the plan” edict and a brutal, old-fashioned double-cross is the can’t-miss formula for the umpteenth thriller to be titled “Blowback.”
Cam Gigandet, Randy Couture and Louis Mandylor star in this “Blowback,” three stars playing three points-of-view and anchoring three storylines that weave together in this routine, bloody and slowfooted cops and robbers tale from Vegas.
“Ah, Vegas,” you think, “casino heists or robbing a bank where a casino stashes its cash,” “Ocean’s 11” and all that.
Nah. This is straight-up down market, where a single casino is a backdrop and our robbery involves something less cinematic but very much in the news, and probably going away soon, perhaps taking the world economy with it. And that just threatens to make “Blowback” feel instantly-dated, on top of everything else.
Gigandet (“Never Back Down,” “Twilight”) is Nick, a rideshare driver with a daughter dying in the hospital. He can’t get her into an “experimental program” on his insurance and the pittance he makes driving. Good thing he’s sketchy and knows the right guys to pull a heist.
It’ll be an inside job, and with his tech pal Xander (Benjamin Abiola) on board, and a crew of five others, it should be a cinch. It never is.
Couture (“The Expendables” movies) is Jack, a hardcase who’s taken up with one of Nick’s exes (Michelle Plaia), and both of them are in. Jack is pretty obviously the thuggish wildcard in all this.
When we hear the instruction “Nobody gets hurt,” we know better. When we hear “Stick to the plan,” we know SOMEbody won’t. And we know who.
Next thing we figure out is how Nick is bleeding out, running his rideshare car on the rims until a cop notices him and gets him to a hospital in the film’s opening scene. Jack and the others double-crossed him.
Mandylor is Detective Cooper, heading the police team trying to research every part time employee in Vegas who was off that day (I kid you not) as a data-based trackdown begins. Cooper’s always asking “What’re we missing here?” and answering “What’re you thinking?”
We know Nick’s gonna live, at least long enough to make it to that opening scene. And we know he’s coming for payback, because he’s the “blowback” these mugs weren’t counting on.
The heist is nervy enough, although veteran director Tibor Takács, who’s made a LOT of Christmas TV movies of late, and his DP bring nothing new to such scenes. Where “Blowback” goes off the rails for me is in its scripted solution to Nick’s problem.
We expect our bad guys to be resourceful, tough and willing to turn ruthless to get what’s theirs. Nick turns to a boring mobster who supplies him all the help he’ll need.
The guy is literally a “Gangster ex machina,” providing transportation, muscle for “enhanced interrogations” and a place to hold such torture sessions as Nick seeks to retrieve something stolen from our charisma-starved character actor playing a heavy.
The fact that we’ve seen Nick get himself “fixed up” by a disgraced junky doctor (William McNamara) living in an RV tells us he’s dirty and wired into this underworld. We want to see him struggling to solve his own problem, and getting more desperate every step of the way.
One semi-tense meeting with our Mr. Big and half the dramatic potential of the movie is tossed out the door. And it’s not like the other half is “Point Blank” or any of its hard-man-getting-payback variations.
The leads aren’t bad, but this script is fatally flawed and you’d hope they’d notice that before the camera rolls.
Rating: R for violence, drug use and language.
Cast: Cam Gigandet, Randy Couture, Michelle Plaia, Benjamin Abiola, Rafael Cabrera and Louis Mandylor,
Credits: Directed by Tibor Takács, scripted by Matthew Eason, Robert Giardina and Robert Edward Thomas. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:33