The period crime picture “Vault” takes a look back at a spectacular 1975 robbery, where two low-level crooks swiped about $30 million from the mob. Writer-director Tom DeNucci, co-writer B. Dolan and a superb cast work hard to bring a fascinating, largely forgotten true story to life, though an inconsistent tone and an over-reliance on genre clichés keep the movie from realizing its potential.
Theo Rossi and Clive Standen co-star as “Deuce” Dussault and “Chucky” Flynn, two hapless stickup men who are having a hard time getting ahead in the Mafia’s tightly controlled Rhode Island branch. After a stint in prison, the old friends make a bold play, raiding the unassuming-looking storage facility where their bosses stash their loot.
Rossi is perhaps best known for playing one of the more sympathetic characters on “Sons of Anarchy,” and he’s equally good here, in a rare leading role. DeNucci smartly makes the story about Deuce, an industrious, good-hearted rogue, frustrated by his lack of career advancement.
At its best, “Vault” gets into the strict caste system of the underworld; and the simultaneous brilliance and insanity of stealing from an organization that doesn’t want the cops cracking the case.
But the movie too often plays like a regional theater production of “Goodfellas,” marred by some hammy dark comedy and off-the-rack tough-guy dialogue. The passion of the people behind this project is evident, and appreciated. But like Deuce and Chucky, they may have assigned themselves an impossible, foolhardy job.
Rated: R, for language throughout, violence, drug use and some sexuality/nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Playing: Starts June 14, AMC Burbank 16 ; also available on VOD
William Wayne deserves some credit for the crazy ambition of his neo-noir “Lost Angelas,” and not just because he directed, co-wrote, co-produced, edited and stars in the film. No, what’s much more notable is Wayne’s time-hopping, reality-bending narrative structure — which, unfortunately, proves needlessly complex.
Wayne plays Jake, an aspiring screenwriter fascinated by his family’s connection to a great Hollywood mystery: the disappearance of superstar Angie Malone. When Jake meets a barista/actress named Angela (Korrina Rico), he writes her a script based on Malone’s story. When the movie stalls at the box office, he suggests she boost publicity by vanishing.
“Lost Angelas” bounces between the making of Jake’s movie — including frequent clashes with its sneering director, Walt Warshaw (Jon Jacobs) — and the investigation into Angela’s perhaps-not-so-fake missing-persons case. The plot twists are at times preposterous, especially when the film-within-a-film becomes an awards contender.
Wayne does keep the audience guessing. But the tradeoff for all these intertwining timelines and multiple unresolved mysteries is that “Lost Angelas” never builds momentum. It’s good that Wayne takes some chances with a familiar genre, but his excessive fragmentation effectively turns this movie into a 90-minute trailer.
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: Starts June 14, Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena
‘Daughter of the Wolf’
The snowy British Columbia wilderness does a lot of the dramatic heavy lifting in “Daughter of the Wolf,” a bare-bones revenge thriller that takes place almost entirely in the icy outdoors. An entertainingly scenery-chewing Richard Dreyfuss performance intermittently livens up a movie that’s otherwise fairly unremarkable.
Gina Carano stars as Clair Hamilton, a military vet with special forces training, who’s just inherited a large sum of money. Dreyfuss plays “Father,” a snarling criminal kingpin who orders his goons to kidnap Clair’s teenage son Charlie (Anton Gillis-Adelman). She counters by seizing one of Father’s men — the in-over-his-head Larsen (Brendan Fehr) — to figure out how best to beat him.
Veteran horror and action director David Hackl brings professional polish to a slight story (penned by screenwriter Nika Agiashvlli). “Daughter of the Wolf” could’ve used a jaw-dropping set-piece or two (or three or four), but Hackl does at least embrace the challenge of shooting outside in the cold, and the movie’s moderately better for it. The trees, mountains and wild animals offer something nice to look at until this fairly tame ride coasts to a stop.
‘Daughter of the Wolf’
Rated: R, for violence and some language.
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: Starts June 14, Galaxy Mission Grove, Riverside; also on VOD
Most of the first half of director Ellie Callahan’s supernatural thriller “Head Count” feel like a waste of time, made all the more frustrating once the movie starts to improve. Long, bland scenes of chit-chat and boozing drag out the standard “group of young folks are stalked by a monster in the middle of nowhere” premise.
The best idea Callahan and her co-writer Michael Nader have is to tell the story from the perspective of an outsider. Isaac Jay plays Evan, who’s visiting his older brother in the desert when a pretty girl named Zoe (Ashleigh Morgan) catches his eye and invites him to join her friends for the weekend. During a round of campfire ghost stories, Evan inadvertently conjures the shape-shifting demon Hisje, but he doesn’t sense the threat immediately, because he doesn’t know his heavily intoxicated new pals well enough to register when they’re behaving strangely.
Once the Hisje begins working its way through these kids — needing to take five souls before it can be satisfied — “Head Count” becomes a solidly made, often quite scary horror picture. But getting to that point requires spending almost 45 minutes at a party with some not-that-engaging strangers.
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Playing: Starts June 14, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood; also on VOD
The homoerotic slasher film “Killer Unicorn” doesn’t really work as horror, and though it’s filled with colorful personalities, it’s never quite as funny as it should be. But director Drew Bolton and screenwriter Jose D. Alvarez have such a clear, confident point of view — and keep their running time so short — that their film ought to appeal to fans of oddball midnight movies.
It helps that Bolton and Alvarez are working with a powerful central image: a sexy serial killer, clad only in glittery shorts and a unicorn mask, stabbing his way through Brooklyn’s gay nightlife scene. “Killer Unicorn” weaves together drag performances, explicit sex scenes, sassy repartee and murder — with the latter serving as a metaphor for a new, rising strain of bigotry.
The strong sensibility and the unabashed sensationalism overcome some (but not all) the movie’s amateurism. The raggedness is part of the charm, making “Killer Unicorn” feel like the filmmakers’ deeply personal craft project.
Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes
Playing: Starts June 14, Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills; also available on VOD