Forced to the Dark Side
James (Hayden Christensen) has got a lot to thank his brother, Frankie (Adrien Brody), for as he took the rap for a crime them both committed and did the time. It gave James a chance to sort his life out and not only get a steady job as a mechanic but try and make things right with former girlfriend Emily (Jordana Brewster). Unfortunately trying to make things right with Emily coincides with Frankie getting out and with no money or place to go shows up at James'. In the hope of sorting out both their lives for good Frankie lines up one last, mother of all jobs using his underworld connections but ropes James in at the same time.
The reluctant criminal = the reluctant participant and by that I don't mean that the criminal is the reluctant participant but the audience when it comes to "American Heist". Here is a movie which for the first hour is simply a bore as we enter the world of James who despite trying to do the right thing finds himself duped in to being a get away driver for his brother and friends. Yes we get a glimpse at the anger he has towards Frankie for screwing things up but we also see the conflict which comes from loyalty he has because of Frankie doing time for him. It just isn't very interesting especially when it then goes through some generic mechanics of a planned bank robbery.
What I will say though is that the casting of "American Heist" saves the movie as Adrien Brody is in full flow at filling his character with ticks and mannerisms, almost to the point of doing a Kevin Spacey by making Frankie riddled with character. At the same time Harden Christensen gives his character plenty of depth as well bringing out the conflict in his character of wanting to do the right thing but also being drawn into the mess which his brother and friends have created. But again the characters are not that great and in the end they are not enough to draw you in to the unfolding storyline.
As to the storyline well there is a nice idea going on here as James is drawn in to the bank job whilst his girlfriend Emily happens to be a dispatcher for the police. The thing is that nice ideas alone don't make a movie and whilst the final 30 minutes are better than the first 60 it still doesn't lift this movie from just scraping through.
What this all boils down to is that "American Heist" whilst not terrible does end up one of those movies which feels like it is robbing you of your time.