Much has been said about George Lucas’ choice to have Hayden Christensen play Anakin Skywalker in the late 90’s and 2000’s release of the new chapters in the Star Wars films. Most said he was a poor choice and a lousy actor. Granted his emotional arch leaves a lot to be desired, but for what was required of him in those films, I thought he did about as well as could be expected. Let’s be honest, though. He would not have been most anybody’s first choice. I have found him to be solid in Shattered Glass, a true story about a disgraced reporter, Stephen Glass who was caught fabricating stories while working at The New Republic magazine from 1995-1998. The film was a very well crafted drama about honesty and integrity, had a great cast and everyone did quite well in their roles. That is a film you should watch. American Heist, however….is another story.
The reason I labored on Christensen’s acting is because if he gets the right role and prepares for it, he can act. No one is polishing up an Oscar for this guy, but he holds his own with Adrien Brody who does have an Oscar. In American Heist, Christensen plays James Kelly, car mechanic who has tried to get his life together after he and his brother Frankie (Adrien Brody) committed a series of crimes when they were younger. Frankie took the rap and did some serious time in prison, so James would not have to. Upon his release, Frankies almost immediately returns to a life of crime. He owes people favors and money, still and so he is obligated to do their bidding. Sugar (musician AKON) and Ray (Tory Kittles) are two such men who require Frankie’s services. Frankie then ropes James to pull off a bank heist it broad daylight. They threaten James and his new girlfriend Emily, (Jordana Brewster) who just so happens to work for the police department as an operator and dispatcher. No surprises here. This film follows the basic formula for this kind of picture.
American Heist DOES feature two good performances by Brody, who almost never gives a bad performance and surprisingly, Christensen. They carry this film for its entire 94 minute runtime. The big problem I had with this film was there was not one moment that you didn’t see coming. Director Sarik Andreasyan and scriptwriter Raul Inglis make sure every plot element is covered but they do it out of what the story requires, not out of the behavior or writing of the characters. There is the obligatory love scene, the car chase, the meeting of the bad guys and their obligatory threats to everyone’s well being. The actors can only do so much. Please give them something fresh and exciting to do. What we get is tired cliche after tired cliche of your standard crime drama. Nothing feels real and everything has the “been here before” vibe.
The rest of the cast is sufficient but there is nothing for them to do. Jordana Brewster is attractive enough, but spends most of the time looking like can’t wait for this gig to be over. AKON and Tory Kittles provide enough menace but once again, we have seen all of this before and done much better. I will say I enjoyed AKON’s score for the film. It provides some much needed punch to the story and I did enjoy the two leads but overall, American Heist offers very little that is new or fresh. In a year that saw Hayden Christensen churn out films like 90 Minutes in Heaven and the film Outcast, American Heist is by far the best of the three. But that ain’t saying much.
American Heist-**1/2 out of 5
American Heist- Rated R for language and violence
American Heist- Run Time 94 minutes
American Heist is now available on DVD and On Demand