Highway chases are thrilling. Remember Speed? Or the sequence in The Matrix Reloaded?
So despite the fact Bus 657 (called Heist in a few countries) is a B-grade thriller, it manages to capture your attention thanks to its highway sequences.
Before I go any further, I must admit my bias - Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been eye candy ever since Grey's Anatomy and Supernatural even despite his usual one-toned performances. Thanks to his ongoing stint on The Good Wife, the show has become the one I look forward to most each week.
Anyway, Scott Mann (The Tournament) directed this heist film and managed to snag a star-studded cast - Robert De Niro, Kate Bosworth, mixed martial artist Gina Carano and pro wrestler Dave Bautista.
His plot is like a jumble of Speed, Ocean's Eleven and Martin Scorsese's Casino: De Niro's character, "the Pope" - yes, that's his name - is unsympathetic when one of his casino employees, Vaughn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), hits him up for a $300,000 loan to save the life of Vaughn's little daughter, who's dying. Rebuffed and desperate, Vaughn agrees to join another employee, Cox (Bautista), in a scheme to rip off the casino for several million dollars.
The heist goes wrong, of course, and Vaughn and Cox and two associates make their escape in the traditional hail of gunfire. They then commandeer a local bus, terrify the passengers (one of whom is inexplicably wearing a beaver costume), and order the driver to drive for Texas, where a getaway plane awaits to fly them to Mexico.
Onboard the bus, Cox screams and throws random tantrums while Vaughn slowly wins over the passengers with displays of his essentially gentle nature (he's a war hero). Meanwhile, they're all being chased by a SWAT team led by corrupt cop Marconi (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, giving the movie's worst performance), as well as the Pope's private hitman, Dog (House of Cards' Morris Chestnut).
Also in pursuit is a police officer named Kris (Gina Carano), whose dedication to her job is clearly minimal by the end of the movie.
But luckily the pace never really lags and when things do slow down, it's mainly so De Niro can provide some much-needed depth to his character, most notably in an emotionally tense reunion between Pope and his estranged daughter (Kate Bosworth).
And whether or not you'll buy the ridiculous dialogue and plot contrivances depends on your willingness to suspend disbelief on such details as a hospital being willing to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash minutes before an operation.
Mann also somehow manages to put De Niro to good use despite the very little screen time - wrapping Vaughn's story up with a rapturous, narratively superfluous shot of De Niro tilting his head back and enjoying a cigarette.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is, of course, the glue that holds the entire movie together. He plays the role of Vaughan pretty well - with some swagger, some humour and some toughness while showing how tortured and helpless he feels in trying to help his daughter.
You probably haven't had this much fun with a modern B- grade movie in a while.
And Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Need I say more?
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