You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. If there’s a lesson to be learned from American Heist, it’s that. Well, that and any bank job that relies upon the participation of jittery, nasal, sad giraffe face Adrien Brody is doomed to failure.

Returning to New Orleans from chokey after ten years (which seems quite a short sentence for killing a cop, particularly in Louisiana which is a death state), the first thing whiny, loose cannon Frankie (Adrien Brody) does is hook up with his homies, Ray (Tory Kittles) and Sugar (Aliaune Thiam aka hiphop/R&B star Akon), for a debauched night of strippers, blow and blowjobs. The second is to involve his more responsible little brother, ex-soldier James (Hayden Christiansen) in a murder after emotionally blackmailing James into driving Ray and Sugar to a business negotiation that ends in gunplay and forces James back into the criminal underworld he thought he’d escaped.

With a million dollar bank hest in the offing, Ray and Sugar need James’ particular set of skills as a cool as ice getaway driver and his expertise with explosives to pull off the job and if he doesn’t step up, Frankie’s gonna pay. Torn between his love for his brother and his fledgling romance with ex-girlfriend (and police dispatcher) Emily (Jordana Brewster), James finds himself reluctantly sucked into Ray and Sugar’s plan. But when the robbery goes awry and the gang are forced to take hostages and barricade themselves in the bank when the cops surround them, the brothers find themselves in a desperate fight for survival.

So generic and derivative it even has a “don’t go for the vault man…you never go for the vault…” speech, I must admit much of my interest in American Heist lay in if and when whiny, nasal, gay goat rape phobic Adrien Brody (seriously, Google Adrien Brody Gay Goat Rape and be incredulous), officially The Worst Actor Ever to Win An Oscar, would take a high velocity, mushrooming hollow point to the face. And yes, I know Whoopi Goldberg, Roberto Benigni and Cher have also won the Oscar but none of them actively made me root for the SS. Not even Benigni. There’s a reason why waving grass fetishist and amateur shoe-gazing teen poet Terrence Malick excised giraffe-human hybrid Brody from The Thin Red Line (a film based on a novel where Brody’s character was the closest thing to a protagonist) and it probably wasn’t because he was so good he was embarrassing the other actors.

So, as formulaic and obvious as the film is, working through the genre tropes with an earnest predictability, it’s something of a shame when Brody turns his reading of Mean Streets’ Johnny Boy all the way up to 11 and starts getting weepy about the prison buggery Ray and Sugar saved him from as American Heist does what it says on the tin. It’s a decent, workmanlike, bank robbery thriller, grounded by a solid, likable performance from the reliable Christensen while Tory Kittles’ psychotic Ray is coolly terrifying, gunning down cops and hostages without blinking an eye while raging about the iniquity of global capitalism, justifying his actions by reminding us that the banks are the true villains while Andreasyan keeps the pot boiling, injecting a sense of chaotic mayhem into the film’s extended climactic shootout. But American Heist would have earned another star if someone had put Brody out of my misery sooner.

American Heist can be purchased here:

Rental Review: American Heist
3.0Overall Score
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