Based on a real-life bank robbery in 1988 in Chicago, Showtime has brought out a feature film called Heist 88, starring Courtney B. Vance in the lead. The narrative follows the desperate efforts of a criminal mastermind, Jeremy Horne, to inspire some bank employees to join forces and commit a bank robbery. Despite being financially backward, these compliant bank employees were not criminal-minded, but Jeremy Horne, being extremely persuasive, manipulated them with the lure of a better lifestyle. However, somewhat overdramatic dialogue and a lazily written screenplay spoil the charm of the film. Courtney B. Vance’s performance is good, but it becomes a bit difficult for him to single-handedly save the film.
Heist 88 presents us with a fictional retelling of the 1988 bank robbery led by Armand Moore. But changing the name of the actual person, Heist 88 took some creative liberties to construct a new narrative. The film’s protagonist, Jeremy Horne, is a convicted criminal and a great schemer. He roams the streets of Chicago during his probationary period and plans his next crime, but he has a tracking monitor attached to his ankle. The authorities have given him 21 days to surrender himself, but Jeremy didn’t bother to contact them as he was too busy hatching a scheme to become wealthier. However, he is already a wealthy man who owns a private airline, Breezeair, but his high ambitions and greed cannot hold back his criminal tendencies.
Jeremy went to a church to pay his respects to his late brother, who had been a leader of the black community. His nephew, Marshall, comes forward to talk to him, even though his family has told him to stay away from Uncle Jeremy. However, Marshall is desperate and needy. He established his music studio, for which he had to take out a loan, and now the moneylenders are constantly after him. As the pressure mounts on Marshall, he wants his uncle to help him financially. But little did he know that this was exactly the opportunity Jeremy was looking for, and it didn’t take long for him to grab it.
Later, Marshall introduces Jeremy to his friends who work with him in his recording studio. Marshall’s three friends, LaDonna, Rick, and Danny, work at the National Bank of Chicago. This information comes to be of interest to Jeremy, and he begins to plan how he can get them into his team. He secretly keeps his eyes on the three of them. Danny’s wife is soon to be the mother of their child, so Danny’s low-wage job at the bank is not enough to ensure the best upbringing for their child. On the other hand, Rick is also not being able to cope with the financial crises, as is LaDonna, who is worried about the responsibility of educating her two sisters. LaDonna’s mother is an alcoholic who becomes a severe burden in her life. In this situation, these three desperately need money to sustain their lifestyle and the other things going on in their lives.
Jeremy witnesses all of this, and one day, he brings the three together, including Marshall, to reveal that he plans to rob the National Bank of Chicago, which will make each of them extraordinarily rich. At first, none of them agreed to the scheme, but they finally agreed to collaborate in the heist, as they had no other option to improve their financial situation. In between, we are introduced to two more characters: Jeremy’s old accomplice Buddha Ray and his one-sided love, Bree Barnes, who help Jeremy draw up their plan for the heist. Finally, they manage to heist the entire 80 million dollars through just a few consecutive telephone calls in a very boring way, which appears not to be very convincing or engaging in any way. In 1988, bank transaction services were not fully computerized, so transactions could only be done through phone calls, but the cinematic representation of it needed a lot more to offer us the experience that we are here for. However, the story does not end here. It has a very poorly written plot twist, which may not surprise you at all.
Heist 88 has everything it needs to convincingly convey the backdrop of the 80s, from vintage cars to loose shirts with suspenders, but in the end, the movie’s script or character writing feels like a total disaster. We only know about Jeremy Horne, the protagonist of the film, as a mastermind criminal, but what about his background? What were his certain motives behind committing such crimes, apart from just showing off the expensive clothes, Rolex watches, and big cars? Despite being the entirety of the story, Jeremy is nowhere to be found. It was very unconvincing to me that Jeremy could buy LaDonna’s assistance with only a Rolex watch and $500 in advance. However, there is some cringe-worthy dialogue too, which brings a very predictable vibe to the movie and pushes it into the crowd of very average movies. The entire narrative had a very lazy execution, which could not sustain any intrigue in the movie. For viewers who are keen to watch a suspenseful heist, this will be nothing but a heist of their time.
The cinematography, score, and overall mood of the film are nothing much to be praised about. A forceful plot twist that appears to have occurred only to make the movie seem morally right is vastly different from the real story. Speaking about the performances, it is not possible for Courtney to carry the entire movie alone, as the performances of the rest of the main characters are average for me personally. Of course, in a movie where the character is not given the opportunity to explore more, it is not right to have high expectations from the cast. Overall, as a very personal opinion, I could not add Heist 88 to the list of good heist thrillers. Menhaj Huda’s film fails to leave an long-lasting impact and can be seen as a mere time pass.