by George Wolf
If we were going to add a third certainty to join death and taxes, how about the fact that heist movies are fun?
A good one makes you want to go assemble your crack team to trade quips, try on parkas and steal a Picasso. A bad one just makes you want to watch the good ones again.
The Vault (formerly titled Way Down) borrows from a host of similar films, keeping the formula familiar, the pulse quick and the scenery exciting for a ridiculous caper that never takes itself too seriously.
Freddie Highmore is Thom, a 22 year-old engineering genius fresh from the University of Cambridge. Bored by all the job offers from Big Oil, his interest is piqued by a mysterious opportunity to “change his life.”
Adventurer Walter Moreland (Liam Cunningham) offers Thom a spot on his “salvage” team, and the chance at untold riches. The plan? Break into the Bank of Spain and steal a centuries-old treasure first buried by Sir Francis Drake. The vault holding the booty is a puzzle of engineering yet to be solved, and Moreland is counting on Thom to be the big brain that outsmarts it.
The upper-crust thieves will have a timely distraction on their side. Spain’s World Cup final will be shown on a Jumbotron set up right outside the bank, meaning that during the match, all security cameras will be pointed at the huge crowd of soccer fans flooding the street, and not at the bank itself.
The script-by-committee mentions “Danny Ocean” early on, which is just stating the obvious. The Italian Job and Now You See Me, Now You Don’t will also come to mind, but director Juame Balagueró ([REC] and [REC2]) isn’t pretending he’s breaking new ground, just trying out a new playground.
Balagueró keeps his pace impatient from the opening minutes. Expect a succession of fake outs, multiple “We’re screwed!” exclamations and a shameless amount of “all is lost” moments. Realizations come only at the most fortuitous junctures and the tests to Thom’s genius never seem quite that strenuous.
And the effect of all of that on the film isn’t nearly as deadly, or taxing, as it should be.
The two hour run time feels about half that. Balagueró gives his camera a stylish flow and keeps us supplied with plenty of opportunities to feel like we’re in on the con, and have a stake in the success of the heist.
And you know what that is?