Movie Review: Masterminds (2016)
“What would you do with $17 million?”
Director: Jared Hess
Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson
Synopsis: A humorous account of the infamous 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery – America’s second largest – in which $17 million was stolen.
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Search for the Loomis Fargo robbery on the internet and you’re likely to come across a photograph of David Scott Ghantt and Steve Chambers, two of the major players in the heist, in orange prison uniform and chains. Ghantt is a thin man with receding blonde hair and a half-hearted moustache, while Chambers is shorter and stocky, and boasts a full head of dark hair and a goatee. Perversely, they each resemble the actor who plays their accomplice in Jared Hess’s Mastermind: Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Zoolander 2), who plays Chambers in the movie, is blonde and slim, while the hirsute Zach Galifianakis (Due Date, The Muppets) is short and bearded, and their casting is typical of how Masterminds flips everything surrounding the true events of America’s second biggest heist. It’s a comedy, but the true story with which it associates itself is one of people tortured by their lives of hopeless despair, the little people for whom financial security is permanently beyond reach. This is why Masterminds failed so badly at the box office despite having all the prerequisites for a sure-fire hit: it tries to find laughs in a situation that simply isn’t funny.
Ghantt’s trusted status at Loomis Fargo brings him to the attention of small-time crook Chambers and his friend, Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig – Sausage Party, Ghostbusters), a former co-worker of Ghantt’s. Ghantt has a key to the vault which provides a temporary resting place for approximately $17 million in transit, so to get him to agree to take part in the heist – which simply involves transferring the cash from the vault into the back of one of the company’s armoured trucks after everyone has left work for the night and simply driving away – Chambers has Campbell con Ghantt into believing she and he will be lovers once they have the loot.
That’s all the incentive he needs, even though the plan requires him to flee to Mexico with just $50,000 immediately after the heist. The good news is that Kelly is going to join him at some point. But, as the days pass, Ghantt’s funds grow low and he becomes impatient for her to join him. Fearing that Ghantt will do something to lead the Feds to them, Chambers despatches an eccentric hitman to take him out, while, breaking their vow not to touch the money for a year, he and his wife embark on a recklessly conspicuous spending spree.
Ghantt and his cohorts were not only rank amateurs, they were also pretty stupid, which sort of explains why Mastermind’s writers chose to turn their story into a comedy. Unfortunately, it looks for cheap laughs by exaggerating the stupidity of its characters, instead of mining humour from the situations in which they find themselves. Masterminds zips along at a fair pace, and is reasonably entertaining thanks to the efforts of a quality cast, but the way it skips certain key incidents towards the end of the tale gives it a rushed and disjointed feel, and the whole thing descends into a poorly devised farce for its entirely fictional finale.
(Reviewed 14th December 2016)