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Film Review: ‘The Hurricane Heist’

A candidate for the best-worst movie of 2018, 'The Hurricane Heist' is a perfect storm of inanity and ineptitude.

Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, Ralph Ineson, Melissa Bolona, Christian Contreras, James Cutler, Ben Cross, Ed Birch.

Rated PG-13  1 hour 43 minutes

As anyone who’s ever set foot on a film shoot can tell you, it’s a minor miracle that any film actually gets made at all. That great films are occasionally made is a major miracle. But perhaps most miraculous of all is the film that manages to be misguided on every conceivable level, on which any reasonable person would have pulled the plug after reading any random page of the script, that somehow still makes it through the agonies of both development and production into a wide release. Tailor-made to appear on a future installment of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” “The Hurricane Heist” is a film of that third variety, a perfect storm of deliriously watchable inanity and ineptitude. It may be a strong early candidate for the worst movie of 2018, but don’t let that deter you – bad movies this fun don’t come along every day.

Much like “Snakes on a Plane,” “Sharknado,” and “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia,” the basic premise of “The Hurricane Heist” can be found right there in its title. As the tiny fictional town of Gulfport, Ala. is battered by what appears to be a Category 75 hurricane, a motley gang of criminals use the weather as cover to steal $600 million in cash – destined for an industrial-strength shredding machine – from a U.S Treasury depot located just outside of town. That description barely conveys the true insanity of their plot, however, nor does it explain how our heroes are roped into risking their lives to protect the government’s soon-to-be-discarded money.

It goes like this: Two brothers named Will and Breeze (because why not) witness their father’s death during Hurricane Andrew as children, and respond to the tragedy by forging very different paths as adults. Anxiety-ridden Will (Toby Kebbell) becomes a storm-chaser – though he prefers the title “synoptic meteorologist” – driving into deadly winds in his armored mobile data center that resembles an early Batmobile prototype. Breeze (Ryan Kwanten) is considerably less ambitious, hanging around Gulfport as an all-purpose mechanic and drinking whiskey for breakfast. The two brothers have been estranged for years, but a reunion becomes inevitable when Will is called back home to observe the storm a-brewin’ in the Gulf.

Meanwhile, a brash ATF agent named Casey (Maggie Grace) has just arrived in Gulfport with three flatbed trucks full of old $20s and $50s that have been taken out of circulation. We know she’s a maverick who plays by her own rules, because the film introduces her as she intentionally crashes her big rig into a line of evacuating cars for no reason; but we also sense she’s working through a recent tragedy for which she blames herself, as her commanding officer says almost exactly that while Facetiming with her.

Just as the winds start to really pick up, the treasury is raided by a small army of assailants, assisted by a number of turncoats from inside. (The film introduces an almost comical quantity of henchmen and co-conspirators here, of which the most entertaining are the town’s crooked good ol’ boy sheriff (Ben Cross), and Sasha (Melissa Bolona), an evil, amorous computer hacker who dresses and talks like a high school sophomore on her way to a Selena Gomez concert.) Luckily, Casey is away while the raid goes down, having driven into town looking for a handyman to fix the compound’s broken backup power generator, meeting Will and Breeze in the process. Thanks to a turn of events that the film realizes it doesn’t have to explain too carefully, Breeze is taken hostage, and Will and Casey join forces to thwart the heist and rescue him.

Director Rob Cohen, who helmed the original “Fast and the Furious” and “xXx” films before moving on to less fortunate projects like 2015’s “The Boy Next Door,” is enough of an old pro to keep the film’s action generally comprehensible and well-paced, and he’s clearly aware of the type of movie he’s making. At times, you have to tip your hat to the film’s cost-savings measures disguised as plot points: Not only does every major CGI setpiece take place in zero-visibility weather conditions, but the town is evacuated roughly 10 minutes in, meaning there are no extras around to hog the craft services tables.

It’s harder to excuse away the fact that there isn’t a single credible Southern accent to be heard in a film set entirely in Alabama, with the most outlandishly awful belonging to the lead actor himself. And while the hurricane heist plot is utterly bonkers, Will and Casey’s schemes to disrupt it are somehow even crazier. A booby trap they lay in a shopping mall relies on a series of freak coincidences and physics abnormalities that would seem improbable in a “MacGyver” episode, and kudos to anyone who can explain why they decide to build a car bomb out of fertilizer late in the film – “It’s how Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City,” Casey says by way of endorsement.

That unusual invocation of terrorist methods aside, “Hurricane Heist’s” strenuous insistence on political neutrality is almost endearing. Afghan War veteran Breeze is there to offer some support-the-troops homilies, while Will provides heartfelt endorsements of higher education. (“Did they teach you that in PhD school?” is but one of the script’s standout quips.) All three of our heroes take time out in the middle of survival situations to discuss their undying love of football and the Second Amendment, but they also believe in climate change. If our divided country can’t come together over a movie this wonderfully terrible, what hope do we really have?

Film Review: 'The Hurricane Heist'

Reviewed at AMC Century City, March 8, 2018.

Production: An Entertainment Studios release of a Signature Pictures, Foresight Unlimited production. Produced by Karen Baldwin, William J. Immerman, Michael Tadross Jr., Danny Roth, Damiano Tucci, Rob Cohen, Mark Damon, Christopher Milburn, Moshe Diamant. Executive producers: Byron Allen, Carolyn Folks, Jennifer Lucas, Terence Hill, Mark Borde, Chris Charalambous, Mark DeVitre, Carlos Davis, Anthony Fingleton, Alastair Burlingham, Charlie Dombek, Tamara Birkemoe, Jenna Sanz-Agero, Christopher Conover, Norman Merry, Peter Hampden, Namit Malhotra, Greg Gavanski, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross.

Crew: Directed by Rob Cohen. Screenplay: Jeff Dixon, Scott Windhauser, from a story by Carlos Davis, Anthony Fingleton. Camera (color): Shelly Johnson. Editor: Niven Howie. Music: Lorne Balfe.

With: Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, Ralph Ineson, Melissa Bolona, Christian Contreras, James Cutler, Ben Cross, Ed Birch.

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