For his latest film, The Last Heist, director Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider, Tales of Halloween) blends a heist film with a serial killer flick to bring a fun – if somewhat shallow – thriller. The combination of genres comes across as Dog Day Afternoon meets Manhunter. Casting Henry Rollins (He Never Died) as the killer Bernard is a big plus for the film as the heist portion is rather lackluster. Rollins brings a sly restrained humor to the film as the rest of cast struggle with more melodramatic nonsense. Terrance Coombs is saddled with confronting his goody-two-shoes brother Danny (Michael Aaron Milligan) who just happens to work at the bank his team is heisting. For the most part of the film, this contrivance is clumsily bandied about until the finale where it finally pays off in an entertaining skirmish. The plot slides along at a quick pace with plenty of characters to either confuse the audience into submission or keep their boredom at bay playing keep up. The big draw is how all the different groups of characters will handle their eventual face to face with Bernard. The Last Heist is a bizarre twist on the “Cabin in the Woods” theme where criminals, victims and cops are trapped with a killer roaming around in the dark.
The story starts off with Bernard (Rollins) walking into his bank to look into his belongings stored in the vaults. He discovers the bank is closing and he must retrieve his belongings. While Danny (Milligan) escorts Bernard to his safety deposit box, Paul (Coombs) and his gang of thieves barge in to hold up the place. The heist is intended to be a quick in and out, lifting a few million left in one of the remaining boxes. But they are not prepared for Danny to be Paul’s brother revealing their identities. And, of course, they are unaware of Bernard who is trapped in the back room but who is far from unprepared to carve out his exit. Before long, bodies begin to pile up inside the bank as the cops appear outside blocking their escape. A few more surprises are in store for the cast as their numbers drop and the floor becomes covered in their blood.
The is no denying that the film owes its entertaining value to Henry Rollins and the talent of director Mike Mendez. Rollins, hot of his exciting turn in He Never Died, proves he has the charisma to carry a role like Bernard. He provides the character with a heaping amount of charm and conviction. His character is also, strangely, the most likable and least annoying character in the film as well. Early in the film, he leans in to another bank patron waiting in line to get their belongings asking if she minds that he goes first despite her waiting for most of the day. Without a threatening word nor menacing glare, armed with a smile and an imposing stature, he gets his way. In much the same manner, he commands the film itself and the audience. The film makers wisely recognize this, giving him the best scenes and the most rewarding conclusion. Raising the stakes, Bernard also often gives his victims a fighting chance to defeat him which is amusing and disarming. Of course, they fail spectacularly. The horror and action genres can use a lot more Henry Rollins in their films.
Mike Mendez also helps The Last Heist keeping the action moving and the tone light. He is not bothered by the lack of convincing sets or bloated cast. The nonchalant pacing and brevity of character with a focus on getting to Rollins as much as possible hints that this is a work-for-hire job for Mendez. But that is speculation given that the overall effort pales in comparison to his films about giant spiders, spooky holidays and haunted houses. Still, The Last Heist displays Mendez’ cinematic touches and camera work when the film gets down to business. Perhaps the usual Mendez enthusiasm bleeds into the picture when Rollins is on screen wreaking havoc. Outside of the scenes with Rollins’ Bernard, Mendez shines in capturing the tension during a key gun battle when the police along with other mercenaries storm the bank to confront Paul and his crew. He handles the action and plot like the conclusion of a Ellery Queen mystery mixed with S.W.A.T.
Another thing Mendez handles well is the horror aspects of The Last Heist which are too few and far between. When the time comes, the gore seeps in with glorious red streams of bloodshed as Bernard carves out the eyes of each victim. But before he can do that, he has to dispatch of them in creative and violent ways. The first encounter is the best as he taunts and teases one of Paul’s more vocal bad asses who thinks she is all that. Bernard is here to show her different. Mendez marries the gore, the killer and the action beautifully in scenes like this. The pain the character feels is visceral and Bernard’s actions are playful and frightening. The only drawback is on the occasion that the camera is sent in for a close up of the carnage. The eye-less eye sockets are noticeably weak special effects that would look fine from afar but are exposed in close-up. At the same time, this is part of the charm of the film.
The Last Heist is an interesting premise of genre blending mixing a bank heist flick with a serial killer film. It shows more promise for the idea than it does for the film itself however as the story aside from Bernard, the serial killer, is not as effective. It is also laden with melodrama as Paul and Danny deal with their relationship along with some of the bickering between Paul’s team as well. This matters little however as the film is exactly what it suggests it is and little more. And, within that context, it is pretty successful and entertaining. The strength of the film is Henry Rollins as Bernard who gives a magnetic playful performance. Mike Mendez ends the film leaving the audience wanting more of this character and that is quite an achievement. There’s plenty in The Last Heist to satisfy horror fans who like to step outside the realms of the genre from time to time. The gore and mayhem keep the film moving at a brisk pace as the film doesn’t ask too much of its audience. Despite it’s low budget flaws, The Last Heist is an enjoyable flick to watch on a hot summer afternoon. Bring on more Henry Rollins, please.
The Last Heist (3 / 5)