Note: the correct title is , in the FAST AND FURIOUS font
The only thing wrong with HURRICANE HEIST is that it’s actually called , and that “the” throws off the alliteration. But I’m betting this thing was written as, like, CATEGORY 5 or IN THE EYE OF THE STORM or something and then director Rob Cohen (DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY, DRAGONHEART, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR) said “Are you stupid? This needs to be called . Unless I can talk you into DRAGONWIND?”
Of course I knew I needed to see a new movie from the director of STEALTH, ALEX CROSS and xXx called . Duh. That’s obvious. What I did not know I needed was Toby Kebbel (DEAD MAN’S SHOES, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, FANTASTIC FOUR) playing redneck meteorologist Batman. After witnessing his dad getting smooshed by a hurricane as a child, Will Rutledge grows up to fight weather in a high-tech practically-a-tank car he calls The Dominator. It has armor-plating, roll bars, flood lights and retractable spikes that can claw into cement.
When Will predicts a superstorm coming he tries to get his alcoholic ex-Marine brother Breeze (Ryan Kwanten, RED HILL) to leave town with him, but Treasury agent Casey Corbyn (Maggie Grace, TAKEN, FASTER, LOCKOUT) shows up at the same time to get him to repair a generator for the Treasury department. Little do they know it’s broken because a heavily armed team of corrupt agents and mercenaries are trying to steal $600 million in bills that were supposed to be shredded, and they need a vault code that only Casey knows. So it turns into a battle.
Will uses the hurricane like super powers. He throws hubcaps at a guy and they fly around like I COME IN PEACE discs. During a stand-off in a mall he shoots out the skylights and everybody gets sucked out like xenomorphs out an airlock, but he and Casey are attached to cables so the fly like kites and then upside-down-rope-climb their way down.
Hats off to writers Anthony Fingleton & Carlos Davis (DROP DEAD FRED) and Scott Windhauser (COPS AND ROBBERS) and Jeff Dixon (a producer of workout videos) for a nice range of dialogue from funny-bad to funny-clever. There are plenty of tell-not-show lines like “I’ve never known anyone so afraid of what fascinates him,” but also exchanges that I thought were intentionally, successfully funny. “I ran out of bullets!” “How’d that happen?” “I shot ’em all!”
A big help is that Kebbell and Grace have a good chemistry and make the stupidest things funny. When he shares his stash of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches she asks if it’s Jif. “Nah. I– I’m a Skippy guy. So it’s Skippy.” You’d have to hear it. It’s all in his delivery. I’d consider myself a fan of Kebbell and this shows that he has more range than I realized. I don’t think I’ve seen him be funny like this before.
Kwanten is good too, and it’s fun to hear an Englishman and an Australian doing more acceptable thick southern accents than most American actors seem to be able to pull off.
Anyway, the only thing that can kill a hurricane is a reverse hurricane, so they have to open a portal to no just kidding this just turns into a truck chase. But I like that. Last time Cohen made a movie about people transferring from vehicle to vehicle it turned into a franchise that has made $1.239 billion to date (plus a Universal Studios theme park attraction and plans for two final chapters, a spin-off and an animated series), so he thought you know what happens during hurricane heists? Alot of transferring from vehicle to vehicle. The climactic battle across a caravan of semi-trucks helps sum up why this is a solid b-movie. It’s got a great mix:
a) special effects shit – all kinds of elaborate disaster movie digital effects of the wind blowing shit around, sucking trucks up, etc.
b) the old fashioned shit – real stunt men doing crazy jumps and walking on top of trucks and stuff
c) the dumb shit – gimmicks like the brothers using a football play they both know to “cut off the runner” in the other truck (a development we’ve all been waiting for since the opening scene, when their father makes them study football plays during Hurricane Andrew)
d) a little bit of heart – they actually try to rescue two hackers who were with the heisters but didn’t shoot anybody
e) originality – as many times as I’ve seen people drive a truck really fast and then one guy climbs out the window and across the hood and leaps and grabs onto another truck, I’ve never seen the driver then accelerate and climb out himself and hope to jump before the truck slows down or swerves
f) elbow grease – and then they put in all kinds of legitimately clever touches like after they get on top of the truck we can see their now abandoned truck in the background as they have a conversation and you can’t help but watch it drift and keep almost driving off the street until it’s finally out of sight. And details like he shoots through a window and climbs in and then when he climbs out he shuts the door and the remaining shards of glass around the edge fall out (an artificial looking effect, but I appreciate the attention to detail).
A note about a: In 1996, Jan de Bont’s TWISTER was a massive hit. It made $494 million worldwide, second only to INDEPENDENCE DAY that year. Most people didn’t consider it a very good movie, but a movie about a tornado made with the new digital effects was exciting enough that everybody wanted to see it. So it’s funny that the technology has advanced so much that now a lower budget and totally disreputable movie like can do that same shit better and nobody cares. It’s just kind of the background to this heist plot.
I also need to mention that the score for this is way cooler than expected or needed. For a while it’s got this cool synthy thing going that sounds like TRON LEGACY. It gets more Hans Zimmery as it goes along and sure enough the very prolific composer has a “music department” credit on INCEPTION, so he’s one of Zimmer’s ten thousand acolytes who now make their own Hans Zimmer scores. But this one is pretty good. Better than expected, anyway.
Please keep ’em coming, Rob Cohen. His next one is supposed to be SPEEDHUNTERS, by a writer from Eastbound & Down. “A colorful team of racers and crew get caught into High intrigue around a revolutionary technology threatening to change the world as we know it,” according to IMDb. I bet I know what font it will use.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.