Review: ‘American Heist’ a tepid potboiler despite star power

Adrian Brody stars in "American Heist."

Adrian Brody stars in “American Heist.”

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Despite a few strong emotional beats, the crime drama “American Heist” proves as undistinguished as its generic title. This derivative story of hard-luck brothers drawn into an ill-fated robbery is notable for raising one pervasive question: What are Oscar-winner Adrien Brody and the underrated Hayden Christensen doing in such a disposable potboiler?

Brody, all sad eyes and manic swagger, plays Frankie, an ex-con back on the streets of New Orleans who shows up at his mechanic brother Jimmy’s (Christensen) doorstep with a dubious get-rich-quick scheme. Military vet Jimmy, wary of his screw-up sibling’s blind optimism, resists involvement. But when Frankie’s insistent slammer mates, Sugar (hip-hop artist/producer Aliaune “Akon” Thiam) and Ray (Tory Kittles, effectively steely), frame Jimmy, forcing him into joining them on a local bank heist, Jimmy has no choice but to comply. That things will go south is a given.

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Meanwhile, from the bad timing files, Jimmy is currently enjoying a promising reunion with lovely former girlfriend Emily (Jordana Brewster), who, not for nothing, is a police dispatcher.

After the robbery is introduced, it gets lost for too long as Frankie and Jimmy, both damaged by a rough childhood, work out their “we’re in this together” dynamic.

Once the picture’s last half-hour rolls around, director Sarik Andreasyan and writer Raul Inglis immerse us in a bank raid that’s as riddled with illogic as it is bullets. It’s hard to know who’s more inept here: the thieves or the cops — or the movie’s editor. A last-minute twist works, until it doesn’t.


‘American Heist’

MPAA Rating: R, for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexual material and brief drug use.

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Playing: AMC Universal CityWalk Stadium 19. Also on video on demand.