I don’t know who in the world was clamoring for an even dumber and cheaper reboot of Twister mixed with the Christian Slater flood heist classic Hard Rain, but they get their wish with the exceptionally unremarkable yet charmingly old school action/disaster movie hybrid, The Hurricane Heist. I’m not entirely sure if the movie’s slavish adherence to ’90s action tropes—the Die Hard in a (Blank) premise, its straight-faced use of disaster flick eye candy and deafening sound design—are presented in a self-aware, nostalgia-exploiting manner, or if the filmmakers are under the impression that the major shifts in blockbuster filmmaking during the last two decades didn’t take place.
Director Rob Cohen was a helmer of A-list action and adventure during the ’90s, and his unapologetically gaudy approach to over-the-top genre clichés while fully embracing then-innovative CGI effects, whether the narrative required them or not, fit his style with the decade like a glove. Yes, he also directed the first The Fast and the Furious, a fact that The Hurricane Heist’s marketing is all too willing to plaster on every poster, but as a blatant Point Break rip-off, that movie’s stylistic feet were still firmly rooted in the ’90s. Even though Cohen kept working after his heyday, he didn’t necessarily catch up with the changing times, which led to some mediocre and forgettable action attempts like Parker, but also delivered entertaining schlock like The Boy Next Door, a reiteration of the early ’90s psycho neighbor erotic thriller.
In many ways, The Hurricane Heist’s lack of self-awareness regarding just how dated it feels plays to its advantage. If you’re looking for that 1997 big-budget CG showcase experience without the wink-wink self deprecating irony of The Lonely Island or Deadpool, then you should be fairly satisfied with this cinematic time capsule. Cohen’s film doesn’t really attempt to do anything else but deliver on the promises of its simplistic but eye-catching title. On the hurricane side, we get Will (Toby Kebbel), who’s such an amalgamation of Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt’s characters in Twister that I’m shocked none of the producers thought of retroactively making the character their son, turning The Hurricane Heist into a Twister sidequel. Just like Twister, this movie opens with a flashback hook that shows Will’s daddy getting swallowed up by a hurricane. Decades later, Will’s a meteorologist who chases hurricanes in order to find out what they’re really made of, as a way to deal with the demons in his past. Sound familiar?
On the heist side, we get Casey (Maggie Grace), a tough-as-nails federal agent who finds herself having to protect the treasury from a gang of robbers who plan on using the chaos created by an oncoming hurricane to get away with $600 million stashed on three giant trucks. Like every ’90s action protagonist, Casey’s a natural asskicker who got demoted after causing her partner to get killed after a momentary slip-up, and is now wary of once again feeling the comforting cold steel of a gun in the service of justice. If this last sentence was too cheesy for you, stay away from The Hurricane Heist. As miscast as Maggie Grace is—the role requires someone with more of a self-assured presence, like Rebecca Ferguson—I have to admit that she gives it her all, and manages to give dramatic heft to this dumb material. How dumb? After we see Casey clearly hiding the code to enter the treasury vault, she eventually has to reveal its location to the bad guys, so she’s tasked with delivering a line as dunderheaded as “It was here the whole time.” You don’t say?
After Will’s slacker brother, the perfectly named Breeze (Ryan Kwanten), is taken hostage by the robbers, he has no choice but to team up with Casey, blending his scientific knowledge of the hurricane with Casey’s fighting skills in order to even out the odds. This team-up leads to a series of loud, predictable, but efficient car chases and shootouts that drape practical stunts with an appropriate overload of CG storm effects. (By the way, does anyone really think that Breeze’s past as a veteran, a fact firmly established during the first act, will not come into play at a later point?) There are hints at some crazy developments that could have deliciously pulled the tonal line into willful schlock, like a gloriously stupid moment where hubcaps are used like throwing stars, but otherwise this is mainly a straightforward genre experience. It may seem mocking to focus on The Hurricane Heist’s non-ironic adherence to an olden but golden age, but I assure you, that’s not a bug but a feature. A movie this eagerly dim wouldn’t have worked if it tried to be anything else.
Director: Rob Cohen
Writers: Jeff Dixon, Scott Windhauser (screenplay); Anthony Fingleton, Carlos Davis (story)
Starring: Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, Ralph Ineson, Melissa Bolona, Ben Cross
Release Date: March 9, 2018
Oktay Ege Kozak is a screenwriter, script coach and film critic. He works as a reader for some of the leading screenplay coverage companies in Hollywood, and is also a film critic for The Playlist, DVD Talk and Beyazperde. He has a BA in Film Theory and an MFA in Screenwriting. He lives near Portland, Ore., with his wife, daughter, and two King Charles Spaniels.