When you think of high profile bank robberies, you don’t normally think of Rhode Island. The tiny state (actually the smallest one in the Union, if you want a bit of geographical trivia) isn’t a hallmark for cinematic settings, but Vault is the exception to that rule. This film, opening this week, seeks to put Rhode Island on the map, at least when ti comes to gangsters and bank heists. It’s an intriguing idea, as this particular story is one most won’t have any clue exists. Alas, the execution here, while fine, never makes an effective case for its own existence. The movie won’t ever bore you, but at the same time, it rarely compels you either.
The film is a crime tale, based on a true story. Taking place in 1975, it’s a depiction of what would become one of the biggest heists in American history. When we meet Deuce (Theo Rossi) and Chucky (Clive Standen), they’re just a pair of small time crooks, robbing a little store. Suggesting some quirks, Deuce actually asks out one of their would be hostages in Karyn (Samira Wiley), who would eventually become his wife. When their paths cross in prison with the mafia, wheels begin turning for an epic crime. French criminal Gerry (Don Johnson) has long wanted to be a made man, something Italian crime boss Raymond (Chazz Palminteri) refuses. So, Gerry recruits Deuce and Chucky, along with a few other guys, to rob the mob. Not realizing at the time, the crew would steal over $30 million being stored in a nondescript trust in Rhode Island. Then, the murders begin, limiting who, if any, will ever see the loot. Tom DeNucci directs a screenplay that he penned with B. Dolan. Rounding out the cast are William Forsythe, Eric Lutes, Vincent Pastore, Sean Ringgold, Gillian Williams, Burt Young, Chuck Zito, and more, while Sam Eilertsen contributes the cinematography.
Despite the unusual setting and unlikely nature of its true story, Vault ends up treading very familiar territory. Nothing about its Rhode Island setting comes through, or frankly, ends up really mattering at all. A movie meant to showcase how unique everything involved in the heist was ultimately feels fairly anonymous. It’s well made, just never able to get over the hump and distinguish itself through a singular identity. Plot wise, despite being a true story, the events largely go down as you would expect/guess, given what other films of this ilk have depicted in the past. It all feels/looks familiar, taking away any of the uniqueness that DeNucci was striving for.
There’s an inherent amount of fun in period gangster settings. The genre almost always wants to entertain, no matter how gritty the story is. Vault doesn’t go for the grit, but it does struggle to differentiate itself from any of the other myriad knockoffs of the work of Martin Scorsese. There’s a clear indebtedness to Goodfellas on display, though only in the broadest of senses. Moreover, what this flick really lacks is vivid characterization. We never get to know them in any real way. Some quirks early on, sure, but that’s about it. This leaves an empty feeling that prevents the movie from reaching its true potential.
This week, the crime/gangster genre adds another member to its rants when Vault opens up (no pun intended). If you’re someone who goes nuts for any bank robbery tale or loves mob stories, this could function as a passable effort in the medium. However, if you want more, you’ll be left lacking. It’s a value judgment here, as this is a movie not worth going out of your way for, but one not necessarily to ignore. A future on cable would probably benefit this flick quite a bit. It’s your call. The film hits theaters and iTunes at the end of the week, so the choice will be yours…
Vault is in theaters and VOD this Friday.