Like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, The Hurricane Heist is two great cinematic tastes that taste great together.
On the one hand, you have hurricanes, full of wind and rain and frightening mass destruction. And on the other hand, you have heists, marked by expert planning and precise execution that generate pulse-pounding suspense. Thus, getting your hurricane in a heist, and your heist in a hurricane, is the sort of creative synergy—think of it as a blend of Twister, Point Break, and Hard Rain—one can easily imagine a Hollywood hotshot successfully selling to a studio, all via a pitch that ends with the proposed tagline “It’ll blow you away!”
Alas, The Hurricane Heist’s advertising wizards instead went with “Make It Rain.” Still, setting aside that missed opportunity, Rob Cohen’s film otherwise ably lives up to its preposterous premise.
Written by Jeff Dixon and Scott Windhauser with all the subtlety of a typhoon—one of which eventually factors into the climate-y chaos—it’s the most gleefully inane release of 2018, and one that wears its absurdity on its sleeve. As with his original The Fast and the Furious and xXx, Cohen cares only for adrenalized aggro nonsense, and here he delivers it in great gusting doses, typified by a soundtrack that’s all barking-mad pronouncements, deafening airstream whooshing and environmental-ruin cacophony. Men throw hubcaps into the hurricane so they can become deadly throwing stars. Cars crash and flip and explode in great raging fireballs. And people leap between semi trucks racing at treacherous speeds. It’s like having a syringe full of testosterone injected directly into your eyes, except far less painful and far more hilarious.
The laughs come early in The Hurricane Heist, thanks to a 1992 prologue wherein adolescent Will and younger brother Breeze watch as their father is killed by a monumental hurricane whose clouds, at their peak, transform before Will’s eyes into the face of a roaring skull. Twenty-five years later, Will (Toby Kebbell) is now a meteorologist who ignores his boss’ reports that a new tropical storm is going to be no big deal, because he can “smell” that it’s destined to mature into a historic tempest. Luckily for Will, he drives around in a government-issued armored vehicle that resembles Batman Begins’ Tumbler. It’s a de factor Weathermobile, full of winches, anchors and other assorted gadgets that soon prove useful once he’s forced into crime-fighting duty.
That new role comes courtesy of the robbery of the nearby Federal Reserve by a group of thieves led by rogue agent Perkins (Ralph Ineson). Apparently, this Treasury branch has a giant shredder that destroys old currency, and he aims to steal $600 million of the loot currently designated for obliteration—and then to use the impending storm as a cover for his getaway.
To pull off this scheme, Perkins enlists the aid of cardboard-cutout mercenaries, as well as two expert hackers, one of whom, Sasha (Melissa Bolona), is a beauty dressed in high heels and a short, off-the-shoulder dress. Why, in the midst of a Category 5 maelstrom, Sasha thought it appropriate to show up to this job dressed like she was heading to the club is, well, confusing. But then, Perkins’ entire plan is more than a bit baffling, since even in theory—and with more than half a billion dollars at stake—it seems to have an exceptionally high risk-to-reward ratio.
Truly complicating Perkins’ scheme is his former partner Casey (Maggie Grace), whose decision to reset the vault’s access codes stymies Perkins’ efforts to pilfer the cash. The Hurricane Heist would have us believe that the Federal Reserve’s security system is run on an iPad—which Casey hides, pre-robbery, just in case. It’s absolutely ludicrous until one remembers that this is a film where former Taken hostage Maggie Grace plays a tough-as-nails ATF agent. Before long, Casey is teaming up with Will, as well as Will’s estranged brother Breeze (True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten), who’s a war vet drinking his life away while also screwing women named Jaguar. “Can’t change people. Sure as shit can’t change hurricanes,” opines Breezy when Will tries to mend fences ahead of the impending squall, and really, have truer words ever been spoken?
Breeze may be the wisest member of this ragtag bunch, but Casey is no slouch in the insight department either, telling Will that his fascination with hurricanes “seems real personal for you.” That it is, and Will’s desire to overcome his fears by facing them head-on is also schematic—and emblematic of a film that feels like it was both written and visualized by a computer. Cohen is far less interested in his protagonist’s personal hang-ups than in staging over-the-top mayhem, and his downpour-soggy set pieces are awash in second-rate CGI. That’s most true of his finale, which features a cascading eye-of-the-storm hurricane wall (boasting atomic bomb-grade power, according to Will!) that looks like it was designed on an Apple IIe. The least Casey could have done is lent the director her iPad for such special effects work.
As Will, Kebbell affects an accent that sounds exactly like a British guy pretending to be a southerner, and his rapport with Kwanten is so stilted that they barely resemble guys who might grab a beer together, much less share a mother and father. A lack of chemistry also plagues Kebbell and Grace, although they do exhibit an amazing knack for hearing each other from great distances over howling winds. It’s no surprise that Grace isn’t very believable as a dedicated government badass; however, her implausible turn actually winds up being an unintentionally amusing asset, given that it fits comfortably in a film that shares no relationship with reality.
Well, that’s not totally true: in two separate scenes, Casey and Will take a break from combatting bad guys in order to, respectively, pee and eat PB&J sandwiches. This is both totally true-to-life—all that falling water would invariably stimulate one’s bladder, and all that fighting would naturally make one famished—and yet, given their life-or-death circumstances, beyond ridiculous. That Cohen would bother trying to straddle that line in the first place only amplifies the abject silliness of The Hurricane Heist.
But there’s no escaping the fact that such uniquely daffy madness also leaves one, in the end, hungry for a sequel—say, The Thundersnow Theft?