Movie Review: American Heist


Just by judging American Heist’s poster and its title, it’s easy to make logical leaps to assume that we are in for one heck of an action movie. We wait with bated breath for our brave but misguided heroes to face off against the Metropolitan Police Department after a convoluted bank robbery crumbles – and boy are we disappointed.

James (Hayden Christensen) is our down-on-his-luck tattooed protagonist. Working in a garage as a mechanic after his 18-month stint in prison, he attempts to get bank loans to start his own garage business, but is turned down time after time. His brother, Frankie (Adrian Brody), waits for James in their backyard fresh out of jail, looking to make amends with the brother he hasn’t seen in 10 years (after snorting cocaine and hiring a prostitute like your average American gangsta, of course).


However, the reunion isn’t all teary as they come to blows immediately – James still resents Frankie for getting him imprisoned, and uses his fists to express those feelings. To add salt to the old wound, Frankie then introduces James to Sugar (Akon) and Ray (Tory Kittles), 2 anarchists who intend to rob a bank as a way of restoring ‘justice’ to a corrupt system.

We should have guessed that any movie involving Adrian Brody, a man renowned for his insane method acting in both The Pianist and The Jacket, would not be a run-of-the-mill action flick with gratuitous gunplay.

Both Brody and Christensen were believable as brothers, with Christensen portraying James’s exasperations in a level headed manner, as opposed to the maniacal desperation of Brody’s Frankie.


However, as trendy as minimalism is, one cannot go minimalist on character backstory or interaction. Whilst it’s understood that James and Frankie share an intimate bond that is exemplified by them not discussing their shared grievances, the audience does not know any of these grievances! Their motivations were glanced over and drowned beneath a thick (and incomprehensible) urban drawl that mostly consisted of constant swearing. It was difficult to care too much about either.

It would have been more emotional and touching if American Heist had, at the very least, flashbacks of all 4 of the bank robbers’ motivations and backstories. It was especially hard to care about Kittles’s character, as we just cannot empathize with his impetus despite his more than apparent passion for his cause.


That said, this movie was still rather poignant, focusing on the trust between James and Frankie, brothers who grow up with essentially no parents. They continuously look out for each other and that holds true all the way, resulting in the film’s final plot twist (which was thoroughly satisfying).

A special mention should be made for the film’s realistic gunplay. People actually ran out of ammunition in this film, with plenty of shots going wild as both the police and the robbers were scared of getting shot. Gunshot wounds easily incapacitated the robbers and police alike, though there was still some action movie melodrama with Ray shooting down a police helicopter.


American Heist certainly isn’t an action film – the brotherly relationship easily steals the limelight from the mediocre action and crime plots. It is a gritty and realistic film but it doesn’t do a movie’s job of telling each character’s story. Things were left just as ambiguous as the film’s ending, and it becomes regrettably forgettable instead.


[xrr rating=2/5 display_as=textstars label=”Our Rating:”]


Cast: Hayden Christensen, Adrian Brody, Akon, Tory Kittles, Jordana Brewster

Director: Sarik Andreasyan

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Rating: M18

Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes

Release date: 25 June 2015


What did you think of American Heist? Let us know in the comment below!