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Review: Contrived heist flick 'The Vault' unlocks moderate thrills

Courtesy of Saban Films


A scrappy band of shipwreck salvagers are on the hunt for a sunken treasure seized by the Spanish government in Jaume Balaguero’s contrived though moderately entertaining thriller “The Vault.” A film that contains no discernible character arch and is packed with countless plot contrivances, “The Vault” manages to keep pace with itself – like “National Treasure” meets “The Italian Job.” Close encounters, dastardly escapes, and tension among crew members are a given in the cinematic universe of heist movies and Balaguero executes them surprisingly well. Prospects for a potential sequel will depend on audience’s willingness to unlock what little secrets the film has in store.

Led with gruff and a rag-tag sense of purpose, Liam Cunningham (“Game of Thrones”) plays Walter, a scavenger on the prowl for Sir Francis Drake’s seized loot, which now resides in a near impenetrable maximum-security facility beneath the Bank of Spain. He recruits Thom (Freddie Highmore) an Oxbridge graduate/mechanical engineer, who’s turned down every lucrative job offer thrown at him, to help devise a way to penetrate the fortress. Thom is your typical: “I’ve got an idea!” man who offers brief insight when it’s convenient and suggests one decent solution throughout the entirety of the film. (You keep wondering why Walter hired him). Other members of the gang include: Lorraine (Astrid Beges-Frisbey) – the sole woman who exists to create romantic tension; James (Sam Riley) – the previous alpha male intimated by Thom’s presences; and safe cracker/expert Simon (Luis Tosar).

Together they make-up the poor man’s “Oceans 11,” but their plan – which the opening credits indicate is based on a true story – heats up when they realize it’s possible to use the upcoming World Cup final – if Spain make it – as a disguise to execute the heist. Though instead of intertwining two high stake proponents of the narrative – the game vs heist - “The Vault” sticks to basics. But the climatic sequence delivers on Balaguero’s promise and “The Vault” deviates from the formula enough to mount a thrilling, topsy-turvy heist that creates genuine suspense.

Sure, Highmore doesn’t make the most charismatic lead but his convictions alongside Cunningham create a believable mentorship inside an illogical vacuum. His graduation from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Spiderwick Chronicles” to primetime network television and more adult fare is a solid path. “The Vault” doesn’t break from conventional heist clichés – seldom do they ever – nor is the lack of character development forgivable, but at least audiences can suspend their disbelief and enjoy the ride for the over-the-top nonsensical movie it is. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Grade: B-

THE VAULT opens In Select Theaters, on Digital and On Demand Friday, March 26, 2021


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