Synopsis – A guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes one of the biggest bank heists in American history. Based on the October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery.
My Take – What do you expect from a film which has some of the best comic actors and the director of Nacho Libre & Napoleon Dynamite attached to it? A hilarious comedy with enough wit to keep you smiling till the end credits roll in. However, this is not the case here. This long delayed film from the now bankrupt Relativity Media LLC is easily one of the worst films I have ever seen. With a lineup comprising of Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, it’s hard not to recall brat pack comedies like Hall Pass or The Hangover. Those films were not very witty either but they were setup to be outrageously funny and they delivered with laugh-out-loud gags. On the other hand, this film which for some reason has six writers working on it, decided to use just a bunch of recycled toilet humor and misfire jokes. Comedy in American cinema has been going downhill since the early 2000s, with films becoming increasingly trashy, believing that shock humor and gross jokes are the way to make a buck in Hollywood and its pretty obvious director Jared Hess is just doing that here. This ensemble uncomically dramatizes the true story of a 1997 North Carolina Loomis Fargo robbery, which remains one of the biggest heists in U.S. history. Although the script by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivey, along with the direction of Jared Hess and the comic stylings of the talented cast, adds a significant amount of non sense to the action, apparently the film’s story and many of its details stick very close to the facts of the case. This seems like it might have been a reasonably compelling story on paper, but the film seems less interested in actually telling the event in favor of making a fool out of the audience.
The story follows David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), a clumsy and socially awkward, but basically honest and well-meaning armored car driver in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is engaged to the even more awkward and self-centered trailer park dwelling Jandice (Kate McKinnon), but David has fallen for his fellow driver, Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig). Kelly lives (also in a mobile home) with an old friend named Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) and his wife, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Ellis). When Steve hears on the news about a recent failed armored truck robbery, he hatches a scheme to use Kelly’s connection to David to get him to rob Charlotte’s Loomis Fargo. Kelly is reluctant to play on David’s affections, but she’d love to get a share of that money and David is tempted by the promise of a new life with Kelly down in Mexico. After Kelly “trains” David for the things that he’ll have to do to commit the robbery (and how to possibly “live off the land” until it’s “safe” for Kelly to join him in Mexico), and with the help of a few other down-on-their-luck (and none-too-bright) co-conspirators, the plan seems all set. David is a trusted employee with keys to a Loomis Fargo vault, which he accesses after hours. In spite of his natural clumsiness and lack of logical thinking, David somehow manages to load a van with a fortune in bundled bills and gets the vehicle to his fellow criminals waiting outside. They stash the cash, giving David a few thousand dollars (stuffed into his underwear) for his flight to Mexico, where he thinks that he’ll soon be reunited with Kelly. Back in North Carolina, an FBI agent (Leslie Jones) knows that David did the deed and she’s working hard to piece together the rest of the puzzle. Steve gets nervous and decides to take out a contract on David, hiring an old friend turned hit man, Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) for the job. Mike turns out to be a pretty unhinged hit man and his trip to Mexico in search of David ends up being a comedy of errors. David eventually figures out that he’s the patsy and does his best to turn the tables on his partners in crime. Let the comedic missteps begin! Yes? Wrong! Sometimes, Hollywood uses the real names, real places, and real companies when it makes films about historic events. Often, when filmmakers resort to the trite phrase ‘based on a true story,’ it is reason enough for us as film-goers to suspect that everything about the film is phony from fade-in to fade-out, which exactly seems like the case here. Apparently the real David Ghantt served as a consultant for the film (or so the credits claim), it would be unrealistic to believe he would have enjoyed how he was portrayed by Galifianakis.
In the film, Ghantt is innocent to the point of being stupid, easily manipulated by those around him and completely unaware of any and all social cues. Wiig’s Campbell is the complete opposite, using her looks and charm to wrap Ghantt around her finger. Rounding out the main trio is Wilson as Chambers, who is best described as the lease likely person to ever organize a bank heist. All three share the distinct characteristics of starting off as bland, stereotypical “trailer trash,” having some semblance of character development in the middle of the film and then go right back to being disappointing as they become a hero-damsel-villain trio that would be more becoming of a Looney Toones cartoon. This unfunny film seems to suffer from a strange case of cinematic split personality — the first half is a compilation of the worst of the worst in humor these days. From David eating a tarantula to build up his immune system when he reaches Mexico, to accidentally defecating in a pool once in Mexico, to the countless awkward interactions he has with the world around him, these 50 agonizing minutes could be replaced with one of those cringe compilations on YouTube and no one would be the wiser. However, once past that, the plot begins to pick up as David fights back against his backstabbing cohorts. What once seemed like another crass comedy becomes something that’s not quite intelligent or perfectly written, but gets pretty close to both. The true comedy lies in the aforementioned joke with the hit-man, the ways Chambers and his wife, spend the stolen money — which plays out exactly as it did in real life — the Mexican Federal Police’s pursuit of Ghantt at a luxurious Mexican resort and Campbell and Jandice’s fated encounter at a clothes store back in America. It’s one great gag after another, albeit with a few cliché undertones, such as a large-scale action rescue sequence which most definitely did not happen in the true case. The film pads the narrative’s plot-points to the brink; insuring whatever tiny morsels manage to get a giggle remains few and far between. By the time the robbery takes place (a mire half-hour into the film), all humor has ceased and all opportunities for humor have long choked on the lack of oxygen. In a confounding moment of stupidity, Ghantt fumbles into the back of his armored truck and locks himself in, just as he’s getting ready to leave. Seeing Ghantt panic and struggle to breathe at that moment is in many ways the perfect metaphor for this film. Clustered, confused, angry with himself and shambling to find the gears in the next compartment, Ghantt, like the audience feels stuck in a situation that should have never happened. The leads of the film, Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson & Kristen Wiig shamelessly give their worst performances; it’s likely they are enjoying each other’s company to the detriment of the audience. In so doing, they come up with non funny lines & endeavors to make their characters anything more than poorly defined caricatures. In smaller roles, Jason Sudeikis as a psychotic hit-man and Kate McKinnon as Ghantt’s psychotic fiancé are stand outs. Leslie Jones as a tongue-lashing FBI agent is also funny. On the whole, ‘Masterminds’ is outrageous mix of good ideas and concepts made painfully unfunny due bad editing, sloppy storytelling and an over-reliance on the same-old ugly jokes. This film should have never happened.
Directed – Jared Hess
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 94 minutes