Movie review: ‘Echo Boomers’ makes for an exhilarating entry in the heist movie genre
This first-time feature film by stage and short film director Seth Savoy has a few flashy moments that stick out from the rest of the proceedings, but stands, for the most part, as a piece of very assured filmmaking. And it neatly and imaginatively turns the overworked genre of the heist movie on its head.
Don’t misjudge the film’s introductory moments, which will come across like a been-there-done-that scenario for some viewers. There are snippets of TV newscasts about millennials having trouble getting by. That cuts to a group of black-clad men and women, wearing Day of the Dead-like masks, breaking into a luxurious home. Then it all quiets down and settles on a nameless woman (Lesley Ann Warren) talking on a phone, through a prison window, to the jailed Lance (Patrick Schwarzenegger). She’s an author who’s giving him an opportunity to tell his story. So, right from the start, we know how this is going to end, but that worn-out device is infused with a fresh approach, and you’ll be kept guessing as to how it gets there.
Supposedly based on a true tale, it’s set in 2013 Chicago, where Lance, a few years out of college and still unable to find satisfying work, has relocated when his cousin Jack (Gilles Geary) tells him of a great job opportunity. The catch is that Jack doesn’t reveal to ambitious but frustrated Lance what the job is - just that he’ll be “working in acquisitions.”
As suggested in the first few minutes, this film moves along very quickly. “Lance, meet your four other millennial coworkers. Now play some high-stakes poker with them. Now jump into our delivery truck. Now follow our lead as we put on masks, break down the door of a mansion, take everything of value - checking off certain items on a list we have - then bust up everything else with baseball bats before calmly hopping back in the truck.”
Hold on! Lance was an art major. He had hopes of working in a gallery. What has Jack gotten him into? But before he can figure out an answer, he’s brought to meet the boss. He’s Mel (Michael Shannon), a legit businessman with a side gig: He pays off a dirty insurance man, who feeds him information about wealthy people and what they own. Mel’s team of 20-somethings are given addresses, they case the joints, figure out residents’ comings and goings, break and enter and steal and destroy, give the loot to Mel, and get paid ... and spend the money on instant gratification.
This is a reverse-Robin Hood story. Steal from the rich, then keep what you get from the spoils. It’s also the story of Lance’s transformation from wide-eyed innocent to full-fledged thief. Among the many diversions along the way are peeks inside the group of young criminals - Ellis and Allie (Alex Pettyfer and Hayley Law) are the activist couple who started it all; there’s dissension in the ranks when self-professed leader Ellis starts taking a bigger cut than the rest; and there’s a great deal of doubt about how long this operation can go on
As so often happens in stories like this, the good times begin to go bad. Though the main theme stays with “stick it to the man because we deserve more than society is giving us,” matters move off into anger, jealousy, drug abuse and greed. There’s hush-hush talk of another job, a really big job, one that involves not valuable objects, but big piles of cash. Don’t forget that Hollywood movies love to revel in greed and what havoc it can cause - backstabbing, for instance.
Whether all of this really did happen doesn’t matter. What’s going on is entrancing, and it’s complemented by some excellent acting. Michael Shannon delivers his usual terrific performance - his Mel is sometimes calm and rational, sometimes threatening. And while every supporting actor here gets points for a job well done, the film’s credibility rests on the shoulders of Schwarzenegger, and he genuinely delivers, especially in two-hander scenes with Shannon, Law and Geary. Added to all of that, the script features a rarity - a very cool last line of dialogue.
“Echo Boomers” opens in theaters and will be available digitally and On Demand on Nov. 13.
Ed Symkus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Kevin Bernhardt, Jason Miller, Seth Savoy; directed by Seth Savoy
With Patrick Schwarzenegger, Michael Shannon, Alex Pettyfer, Hayley Law