Heist movies are generally fun when they’re well-done, i.e. Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” trilogy. (There’s also certain elements of the subgenre at play in all of the “Mission: Impossible” flicks.) They can be kind of a drag when they miss the mark despite prodigious talent behind and in front of the camera – Frank Oz’s “The Score” starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Angela Bassett and Marlon Brando (in his final role) and David Mamet’s “Heist” featuring Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, Danny DeVito and Ricky Jay spring to mind. This brings us to “REC” director Jaume Balagueró’s contribution to the subgenre “The Vault” (now available on Blu-ray and DVD) – a picture that does a whole lot more right than it does wrong.
Freddie Highmore is Thom, a University of Cambridge engineering student who’s being courted by an onslaught of oil executives at the insistence of his father (James Giblin) – a fixture in the industry. Thom has zero interest in following in his father’s footsteps – he’d rather his talents be employed aiding others or at the very least be engaged in an adventurous endeavor.
Adventure comes to Thom in the form of Walter (Liam Cunningham, Davos from “Game of Thrones”), a marine archaeologist who extracted a box containing three priceless coins from a sunken ship. As soon as Walter and his cohort James (Sam Riley of “Control” and “On the Road”) secure the treasure, Spanish authorities swoop in on them, abscond with the coins and lock ‘em inside an impenetrable safe in Madrid’s Bank of Spain.
Walter, James and the rest of their crew – arts and antiquities expert/pickpocket Lorraine (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, best known for playing mermaids and mages in fantasy fare such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”) and underworld quartermaster Simon (Luis Tosar, 2006’s “Miami Vice”) – need Thom’s expertise in order to gain access to the titular vault. The thieves plot to strike during 2010’s World Cup Final in which Spain played the Netherlands to serve as a distraction, but they’ll also have to get through Bank of Spain’s dogged Head of Security Gustavo (Jose Coronado) in order to succeed.
“The Vault” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s handsomely made and well-acted. I especially enjoyed Cunningham (always a welcome presence) and Riley, whose look, vibe and voice resonate here. I didn’t dig Highmore as a child actor, but he’s grown into a likable albeit still boyish presence. There’s a sequence in which the safe is submerged underwater that’s cool, but it doesn’t hold a candle to a similar scenario in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.” Then again, that movie’s catering likely cost as much as this movie’s entire budget.
Soccer fans should enjoy the story’s World Cup backdrop. (I have to imagine this was a lure for Spaniard Balagueró.) This music fan enjoyed cool needle drops by AC/DC and the Clash. Five screenwriters (Rafa Martínez, Andrés M. Koppel, Borja Glez. Santaolalla, Michel Gaztambide and Rowan Athale) collaborated on the script (often a kiss of death as there are too many cooks in the kitchen), but this particular project is no worse for wear as a result.
The DVD has no special features, but the film itself brings enough to the table to warrant a rental or purchase for those who enjoy artistry being applied to the art of the steal.