"American Heist” is a bad movie with a glorious title. Think of the notables with “American” as a topper: “American Sniper,” “American Beauty,” “American Hustle,” even “American Horror Story” had its merits. But “American Heist” takes a good, functional concept and turns it on its backside, not to mention throwing the performance capabilities of Oscar winner Adrien Brody into the mud. Either Armenian-born director Sarik Andreasyan has never seen a Quentin Tarantino film or heisting just isn’t his thing. Most likely, both.
This is Andreasyan’s first major Hollywood outing. The only other English-titled film listed on his IMDb director credits is called “Pregnant.” It’s about a man who gets pregnant. Not, perhaps, an auspicious background for a director making a crime thriller. (According to vicious online rumors, the director speaks no English either, which must have made communicating with cast and crew difficult and ponderous.)
On the other hand, “American Heist” doesn’t really start to resemble a crime thriller until the last 15 minutes or so and, until then, it plods through a tale of two brothers and their sibling rivalry, which lies between them like a smelly wet rug. Brody stars as Frankie Kelly, just out of prison after serving 10 years for an armed robbery, that he committed with his younger brother James (Hayden Christensen). For reasons never fully explained, Frankie took most of the rap and went to jail while James got off after 16 months. The Kelly brothers had been something of a local legend in New Orleans for their good looks and lives of crime. But when his brother goes out of the picture, James works hard to secure a normal life for himself. He gets a job as a mechanic and rekindles a relationship with former high school sweetheart Emily (Jordana Brewster).