A guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes one of the biggest bank heists in American history. Based on the October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery. (IMDB.com)
In 2004, a quirky little indie comedy took the world by storm in the form of Napoleon Dynamite. The film, about an akward teenager's misadventures in a small town school, quickly became a pop culture phenomenon. A few years ago, director Jared Hess assembled a cast of popular Hollywood comedians to bring to the screen an outlandish take on a true story from 1997: the robbing of Loomis Fargo. It was the second biggest cash haul in U.S. history, with a group of thieves taking $17 million dollars worth of cash. The movie went through a few title changes over the years, and changed production company hands, getting its release delayed in the process, but finally earned a release to the public in late 2016 through 20th Century Fox. Masterminds debuted to mixed reception, but those who enjoy quirky, silly comedy will most likely find this movie right up their alley.
Zach Galifianakis leads this bunch of goofy characters as a bored Loomis Fargo employee, named David Ghantt, on the verge of marrying into a family he's not too excited about either. He then meets Kristen Wiig's Kelly Campbell, a fellow employee who has a slightly more mischievous side to her. After she leaves her job, she falls into the wrong crowd with a man named Steve, played by Owen Wilson, and his gang who encourage Kelly to figure out a way to rob her previous place of employment. She uses David's attraction to her to lure him into their devious plan, and the robbery is soon underway. Hess's direction is frantic but frequently appropriately funny. You wouldn't necessarily guess that this is the same director as Napoleon Dynamite, but there are hints of his fingerprints on the style of the film.
Admittedly, I haven't seen Zach Galifianakis in many films; most of his roles these days are in lewd R-rated comedies, like The Hangover, which I avoid, so I think the only real role I've seen him in prior to this one is G-Force (yikes!). I thought Zach was great in this. He really played the dimwitted-yet-lovable fool quite well. Owen Wilson turns in a decent, but not surprising, performance as sort of a jerk and a villain here. I've enjoyed Wilson's work many times over the years, but I definitely prefer him in roles where he's more like Zach's character here (Shanghai Noon is one of my favorite roles for Wilson). Kristen Wiig, who I thought was great in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Anchorman 2, falls somewhere between her more serious and silly roles here. Her Ghostbusters remake co-star Kate McKinnon is just awful here as Jandice, the woman David is set to marry. McKinnon plays it as subtle as a wrecking ball and her scenes are painful to endure. The third new Ghostbuster, Leslie Jones, who I usually find unbearable due to her loud and obnoxious persona, reins it in for the most part and plays her character more mellow than she usually does. (However, seeing the three of them in this film just continues to reassure me of my decision to avoid the completely unwarranted Ghostbusters remake altogether.) Jason Sudekis, who I'm also not usually a fan of, is fantastic as a hitman here. He has some really great moments in the film. For the most part, it's a pretty strong cast of comedic actors and they help make this a pretty enjoyable romp.
Masterminds offers stupid humor akin to something you'd see in a Farrelly Brothers movie. Tonally, I'd say it's about on par with Dumb & Dumber, so I can see why the film may be a bit polarizing to audiences. I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion, though. It's not a perfect comedy, but Hess does go for those unexpected shock-laugh moments and they mostly work. But stupid humor doesn't always work, and not every joke lands (some fart and diarrhea jokes were too lowbrow, as well as McKinnon's trance-like portrayal of Jandice), but I'd say it's funnier more often than not.
The content is violent at times, but mostly in a comedic fashion, with some of the humor stemming from somewhat mild sexual humor. It's seldom vulgar or profane, but there are enough crude jokes to make this an uncomfortable one to watch with the family. Also, the themes of stealing and murder have varied amounts of glorification here, even if it's usually in jest. In the one special feature on the Blu-Ray disc, the real-life David Ghantt explains his experience and how, because of where he is today, he doesn't regret stealing the money and would do it again. It's that kind of moral compromise that shouldn't be glorified (even if he is just being frank and honest). Still, I'd say that Masterminds does a good enough job of showcasing the dangers and pitfalls of such an act and the lifestyle that follows it. The goofy delivery of the story also helps that a bit. As far as the violent content goes, the worst is a fake-looking dismembered ear that we see briefly that accidentally falls out of the hitman's handkerchief. Also, he talks a lot about enjoying cutting up his victims, but we never see anything like that. Most of the violence is played for laughs, though. And language, for the most part, is minor, with a few uses of blasphemy as exclamations and mostly just uses of "h*ll," "d*mn" or the "a" word.
Masterminds is no masterpiece, but if you're looking for a really lighthearted comedy that's worth a few laughs, you couldn't go wrong with the silliness of Masterminds. However, if you like some more intelligence with your humor, you'll want to steer clear of the ironically titled Masterminds.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 1/29/17)
The Blu-Ray is anemic when it comes to special features, including just a trailer (2:16) for this movie and the following bonus feature:
The Imperfect Crime (16:30) - This lone bonus feature features the FBI agents from the original 1997 case talking about the real-life Loomis Fargo heist. We also get to hear from the real-life David Ghantt about his experiences with the heist and life after he'd completed his prison sentence. Unforunately, we do not hear from the director or any of the cast, and don't see any behind-the-scenes footage. It is neat to learn about the story that inspired the movie, however.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 1/29/17)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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