Toby Kebbell, perennial blockbuster bridesmaid, is among a passel of Brits and Aussies havin’ fun pretendin’ to be Southern by droppin’ every “G” in The Hurricane Heist. Here resembling a constipated and chiseled Sean Astin, his Will Rutledge is a National Weather Service meteorologist whose beefy ride crosses Batman’s Tumbler with Dominic Toretto’s Charger.
It’s fitted with Sparco bucket seats, both primo product placement and a reminder of the last time director Rob Cohen made so much from so little (The Fast and the Furious). It boasts a satellite uplink to the NWS, rendered a darker, sleeker, tech-savvier hub than that which tracked dirty bombers on 24. It has a winch that can yank down cell towers. It has pavement-puncturing spikes to stand ground against gale-force winds or heat-packing hurricane heisters.
The car also has a name, revealed by Will as he and his new Treasury agent pal, Casey (Maggie Grace), share some PB&J: the Dominator. (A bountiful barrage of Bulgarian names in the end credits reveal one of them served as a “Dominator Coordinator.”) While the Dominator sounds like a name better suited to an instrument of sexual self-stimulation, The Hurricane Heist’s vibrations are equally good — a singularly focused, and tremendously effective, pleasure-delivery system once it really gets humming.
Do you giggity-giggity for genially goofy action? You’ll get off more than a few times during Hurricane, the most persuasive movie jail parole hearing in years. Cohen’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is still garbage. But that was also a decade ago and well before his time in the trenches with tank-o-matic Tyler Perry action films and tawdry J. Lo potboilers. Consider this, to paraphrase Will’s description of the hurricane’s eye, Cohen’s bright sunny day in the middle of hell. Besides, who are we to reject the release of a man behind a film in which heroes hurtle hubcaps like throwing stars into hundred-mile-an-hour winds?
As that circumstance suggests, this is not a Passenger 57 bait-and-switch. Most of the film takes place outside during a hurricane in Gulfport, Mississippi — actually Bulgaria, hence the names. There is also a heist plot akin to Den of Thieves, albeit 40 times more enjoyable with 40 fewer minutes and one less Gerard Butler; however, if The Hurricane Heist and Geostorm formed an extended universe of weather schlock, that would be most welcome.
As in Geostorm, there’s a brotherly relationship hammered by a lingering cold front. Will has channeled memories of the childhood hurricane accident that killed his father (a gleefully, gloriously stupid prologue death) into his scientific career. His ex-military big brother Breeze (yes, Breeze) tends to bury it in bottles of Buffalo Trace. (As Breeze, Ryan Kwanten essentially resurrects his True Blood character of Jason Stackhouse with far less confidence or nudity.)
Against NWS predictions, Will is sure Tropical Storm Tammy will turn into a hurricane that’s “worse than the one that killed Dad.” But his plea to evacuate Breeze is fruitless. “You can’t change people,” Breeze tells Will. “Yeah,” Will retorts, “but this hurricane can change people from alive to dead.” A few of the four screenwriters have previous credits. For those that don’t, may this be but the start of their career.
Despite sundry scenes of vehicles fleeing and / or people getting sucked into After Effects cloud templates, The Hurricane Heist works up stirring soundstage moments of stuntwork. The climactic sequence resurrects the road-chase rush of Furious, and a scene set in “Gulfport’s only mall” approaches a try-hard revision of Die Hard. Cohen especially gets his money’s worth out of whatever Bulgarian water tank they built, particularly in the scene involving those hubcaps. Believe me: You really won’t look at hubcaps the same way again.
So … there’s hurricane. What about heist? That’s where Casey from Treasury comes in, demoted after a bad break in Utah to babysitting old cash on its way out of circulation and into the shredder. Far from her mewling days on Lost or in Taken, Grace cuts a convincing, charming action heroine who motivates Will and Breeze as much with her character traits as with high-caliber marksmanship.
If $600 million seems like an insane amount for, say, six people to spend, know that there come to be about 20 collaborators trying to split this kitty. This includes a hacker who shows in evening-wear played by Melissa Bolona. Perhaps Bolona is merely a hilariously terrible actress. Perhaps she’s just someone for whom a role in The Hurricane Heist was a prize at the bottom of a box of Bulgarian cereal. Anyway, all that stands in the thieves’ path are Casey, Will, Breeze, a lot of firepower and some awfully iffy accents.
Call this San Andumbass. Or Dante’s Leak. Whatever pun you toss its way will be rooted in true affection. You won’t mind lying back, relaxing and giving your body over to the Dominator.