At 6:55 on Thursday night, I walked into a bar ordered a lemon drop shot. Pound it back. Pay. Out the door. Walk one block to the theater. I’ll want a buzz for what is to follow. Not a “this is going to be bad, so I need alcohol to get through it” buzz. An “I love the universe, and I love my place in it” buzz. A “we are living in terrible times, but right now, at this exact moment, life is good” buzz.
By 7:00, I was settled in for my much-anticipated screening of The Hurricane Heist.
At first, it was me and two other people in the theatre. Eventually, the number got up to an even dozen. There was no pre-show. No ads. Just a nearly empty theatre, dark and practically pin-drop quiet. Strangely, for this Thursday night screening of The Hurricane Heist, there were no pairs of people, just single hurricane enthusiasts (or heist enthusiasts) quietly scanning their phones, waiting for the magic to begin. It felt like I was at church.
Little did we know, we were about to have a religious experience.
It was 7:20, and the movie had yet to start. Occasionally my eyes would play tricks on me, and I imagined the lights beginning to go down. Is this it? It this the hurricane heist? At 7:21, a rumble of thunder from the speakers. The lights dim. No trailers—what could possibly compare with what was to come?
Here is what happens in the first five minutes of The Hurricane Heist: Two young boys and their father drive through Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 that flattened Florida back in ‘92, in a tow truck adorned with American flags on the front bumper. There’s an accident, and their truck gets stuck on a rock. The father tries to free the car as the boys take refuge in a nearby house. The hurricane picks up, and the boys watch in horror as a silo comes along and straight up Regina Georges their father.
The roof of the house is blown off. As the boys cower, traumatized and fearing for their lives, they see the stormclouds above them take the shape of an HONEST-TO-GOD SKULL.
Cut to: title card.
THE HURRICANE HEIST.
Out this weekend, The Hurricane Heist is the latest film from schlock maestro Rob Cohen, whose credits include original The Fast and the Furious, Vin Diesel-meets-extreme-sports extravaganza xXx, and The Boy Next Door, an erotic thriller inexplicably packed with Greek mythology references wherein Ryan Guzman (in)famously gifts Jennifer Lopez with a FIRST EDITION of THE ILIAD.
Rob Cohen has the soul of a poet.
Our second low-budget, weather-themed actioner to hit theaters within the last year (after Geostorm, God bless), The Hurricane Heist is about a HEIST. That takes place during a HURRICANE. Not a sentient one, despite the presence of hurricane skulls. Specifically, Casey (Maggie Grace) is a federal officer charged with guarding a U.S. mint facility during a hurricane. Unbeknownst to her (but knownst to us), her partner Perkins (The Witch’s Ralph Ineson) is the mastermind of a plot to steal the $600 million housed in the facility before it’s due to be shredded. We know he’s bad from the get-go, because he casually mentions in the first 45 seconds of his screen-time that he has passports to two different countries. Golly gee, I wonder if that’ll prove relevant! Perkins needs a security code that only Casey knows, but there’s a problem: she’s left the facility to rustle up a repairman—True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten playing good ol’ boy BREEZE, his name is BREEZE, you are watching a movie called The Hurricane Heist and ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS IS NAMED BREEZE—to fix the facility’s broken backup generator. Casey, along with brothers Breeze (BREEZE!) and Will (Toby Kebbell)—the boys from the CLOUD SKULL sequence, all grown up and ready to kick a hurricane’s ass—are the only ones who can stop the robbery from going down.
The Hurricane Heist is a ridiculous movie, but in a way that takes itself completely seriously, which is what makes it great. That’s the hallmark of Rob Cohen’s genius. There’s no nudge-nudge-wink-wink, isn’t this silly? There’s just Ryan Guzman—blessed Ryan Guzman—delivering the line “I love your mother’s cookies” (he means her vagina) with a straight-faced intensity worthy of Shakespeare in The Boy Next Door. It’s Paul Walker and Vin Diesel falling in love over a ten-second car in The Fast and the Furious. Here, it’s earnest, Southern drawl-sporting Toby Kebbell very earnestly killing a dude by tossing a hubcap into gale-force winds, thereby transforming into a makeshift boomerang/ninja star that stabs a dude in the chest. Very, very earnestly. Later on, Toby Kebbell, Action Meteorologist, is involved in a high-speed chase that has him climbing on top of a series of semi-trucks. Beware your local weatherman—you know not what he is capable of.
Toby Kebbell’s Will, following the death of his father, has grown up to be a meteorologist who—wait for it—is scared of hurricanes. A character lays out that “I’ve never met a character who’s so afraid of the things he’s fascinated by,” just in case the screenwriters think the whole thing is too subtle for audiences to pick up on. He rides around in an expensive storm chaser truck that doubles as a tank, which is helpful when things start to go down. Before the heist portion of the film starts, Will tells his boss that he wants to stay in town, because he’s convinced the Category 2 hurricane those white collar assholes with their bullshit science are expecting will actually be a Category 5, because he’s the Hurricane Whisperer, that’s why. His boss doesn’t want him to, because “millions of dollars and a hurricane’s not exactly the best cocktail on the menu.”
The Hurricane Heist is filled with such ham-fisted dialogue. One exchange has Will and Casey laying out their peanut butter and jelly preferences. “Is this Jif?” “I’m a Skippy guy. So it’s Skipppy.” Then, in sync, they identify the jam: “Smucker’s strawberry.” Theirs is a connection more deep and meaningful than any other put to celluloid.
There are also lots of Southernisms, like:
“Tell him not to dawdle, y’hyuh?”
“They’re underestimatin’ yew” (Toby Kebbell to the hurricane.)
“He’s gon’ be OK! You know nuthin’ can hurt day-add!” (Cue silo.)
Toby Kebbell has an “i-dee-er” at one point.
Geostorm’s main problem—aside from not giving nearly enough screentime to sweaty Daniel Wu—is that, despite the fact that it’s named Geostorm, we never actually get… y’know, a Geostorm. In Hurricane Heist, practically the whole goddamn thing is a hurricane. It’s wonderful. All the background noise, combined with the strong accents and the script’s incessant jargon (from Will, talking about hurricanes, and a pair of hackers, one of whom inexplicably wears stiletto heels and a skintight cocktail dress to a heist), means that a good third of The Hurricane Heist’s dialogue is indecipherable. It doesn’t really matter. As long as I can catch Ralph Ineson’s anguished snarl of “MY MOOOONNNNEEEEYYYYYYYYY!!!,” I’m good.
In case you can’t tell, I really, really liked The Hurricane Heist. It’s not great cinema. At one hour and 40 minutes, it’s about 20 minutes too long, which has the unfortunate effect of stretching out the more hum-drum sequences in between the instances of utter, glorious bonkerosity. This is a movie where a guy dies when a hurricane drops a semi-truck on his head. Does the semi-truck explode? You get one guess. You have the father from The Witch chewing scenery like he hasn’t eaten in a month and—and!—doing one of those sexy-under-the-closing-door action movie slides. Will and Breeze (BREEZE! BREEZE!!!!) talk in football metaphors for some reason. Stormclouds form the shape of a skull. Twice. It’s stupid and it’s fun and it’s one of the best times I’ve had in a movie theater so far this year. And that’s only partially because of the vodka.