Nicolas Cage plays a veteran cop caught up in a gunfight with well-armed bank robbers in York Alec Shackleton’s action thriller.
It’s probably foolish to wish that Nicolas Cage would once again make movies as good as Adaptation and Leaving Las Vegas. But is it too much to ask that he go back to the comparative glory days of Con Air and The Rock? The question comes to mind after seeing the latest mediocre B-movie actioner in which the scarily prolific actor squanders his considerable talents. Its title seemingly designed to locate it near the top of the VOD listings that will give it its highest profile, 211 mainly comes across like a pale, television pilot-style imitation of Michael Mann’s Heat.
Inspired by a notorious real-life 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery in which the police found themselves vastly outgunned by a pair of bank robbers, this film directed by York Alec Shackleton largely revolves around a similar protracted firefight. But while the blazing gun battle consumes much of the running time, John Rebus’ screenplay (based on one by the director) throws in plenty of subplots and essentially irrelevant characters to make the film feel padded even at 86 minutes.
We’re introduced to the story’s bad guys via a prologue set in Afghanistan, where a group of hardened mercenaries (Michael Bellisario, Sean James, Ori Pfeffer and Weston Cage, son of Nicolas) have been stiffed out of their money by a war profiteer. After promptly dispatching him, the group heads to America to reclaim the money that has been deposited in a bank. Along the way, they’re pursued by a relentless Interpol agent (Sophie Skelton) who seems to belong in another movie entirely.
During their heist, the robbers are forced to take hostages when their suspicious getaway car is noticed by a pair of local cops — hard-boiled veteran Mike (Cage), who, like every older cop in movies, is just days away from retiring, and his younger partner Steve (Dwayne Cameron), who also happens to be Mike’s son-in-law. Just prior to the violent events, Steve informs Mike that his daughter (Amanda Cerny), from whom he’s estranged, is pregnant. The two cops also have a guest, Kenny (Michael Rainey Jr.), a black teen who’s been ordered to ride along with them for a day as punishment for violently striking back at one of his classmates who’s been bullying him.
Despite their attempt to distract the police by setting off an explosion at a nearby diner, the villains soon become engaged in a brutal, elongated battle that involves plenty of automatic weapons. Along the way, they demonstrate their ruthlessness by killing several hostages and innocent bystanders, sometimes out necessity and other times simply for kicks. At one point, Steve gets shot in the leg, resulting in a dying scene so drawn-out it would make Camille blush.
The film awkwardly tries to infuse emotionalism into the graphically violent proceedings via the relationship between Mike and Kenny, which starts out as resentful but winds up as one of mutual respect when the teenager rises to the occasion and becomes a key figure in the action. None of it feels remotely authentic, including the coincidence that Kenny’s mother happens to be a nurse at the hospital where several of the cops are being treated.
Director Shackleton stages the ultra-violent mayhem with reasonable proficiency but little flair or imagination. And the less said about the dialogue, which features such gems as Cage barking, “Let’s take these assholes out!” (as if his fellow officers have something else in mind as they fire away), the better.
While Cage effectively underplays throughout, he does have a terrific meltdown scene in which Mike berates a superior for not providing back-up sooner. It’s the sort of enjoyable over-the-top moment that the actor’s fan base lives for, but it’s scant compensation for the overall mediocrity of this rote action movie.
Production companies: Momentum Pictures, Millennium Media
Distributor: Momentum Pictures
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Cory Hardrict, Michael Rainey Jr., Dwayne Cameron, Ori Pfeffer, Weston Cage, Sophie Skelton, Alexandra Dinu, Amanda Cerny
Director: York Alec Shackleton
Screenwriter: John Rebus
Producers: Jeffrey Greenstein, Jonathan Yunger, Les Weldon, Isaac Florentine
Executive producers: Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, John Thompson, Scott Karp
Director of photography: Alexander Krumov
Editor: Ivan Todorov
Composer: Fredrik Wiedmann
Costume designer: Anna Gelinova
Casting: Luke Cousins
Rated R, 86 minutes