Anytime a WWE star transitions into action movies, I take notice. It’s not because I’m a fan of WWE; I’m definitely not. It’s too over the top and fake for me (says the guy who has seen, and loved, every Jean Claude Van Damme movie). I really only know the names of wrestlers who have strayed into my world of action movies (mostly straight-to-DVD). I take notice because today’s Hollywood is disgustingly short on manly action movie stars, and the progression from WWE to action movies is a natural one. The good thing about professional wrasslin being fake, is that these guys get to practice and work on their acting skills. Along with that, most of them are gigantic, hulking men, who are clearly physically gifted (ask any wrestling fan and they’ll tell you, just like my buddies who watch it tell me, the fighting might not be real but the athleticism certainly is). Add all that up and anyone could clearly see why the progression from professional wrestling into action movies is a no brainer.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the transition will work (most times it fails miserably). Although WWE is a platform for these athletes to hone their acting skills, WWE acting is vastly different from actual acting and many of the stars that make the transition never can get out of their wooden, boisterous, over the top, pro wrestling type of acting (see Hulk Hogan). Another problem with these wrasslers turned actors is, many of them just don’t have any charisma. They get on the big screen and there’s just no connection between them and the audience. For every Dwayne Johnson (whom I consider to be the gold standard for these WWE-acting transitions) there is a Bill Goldberg (watch Universal Soldier: The Return if you don’t believe he’s the worst).
The man who has recently peaked my interest, and the reason I just went on that probably way too long spiel on WWE stars turned actors, is Dave Bautista. Bautista is a former WWE star/MMA fighter (kinda; I mean, he only fought one MMA fight, but he did win that fight so I guess it counts) who has recently turned his focus to action movies. What I’m here to decide on is where he will settle in the hierarchy of these types of actors. Will he emerge as an action movie mega star along the lines of Dwayne Johnson, or will he be yet another failed experiment like Hulk Hogan, Bill Goldberg, John Cena, and, well, pretty much every other person that has attempted this transition? Or maybe he will be somewhere in between. Someone who doesn’t quite transcend to action movie stardom, but has a solid acting career and finds a home doing halfway decent, mostly direct-to-video, action movies (Think Roddy Piper who sustained an acting career from his masterpiece, They Live, in 1988, all the way up to his death in 2015. Or more recently, Steve Austin who has built a career with a steady flow of solid bargain bin action movies starring alongside action studs like Steven Seagal, Michael Jai White, and Dolph Lundgren).
I will begin by discussing/reviewing three films, all involving Bautista (and oddly enough all involving small parts played by one time huge actors). Once I’ve done that, I’ll talk about Bautista and where I believe his career will eventually place him on the list of former wrestlers turned actors. So here it is, people! The moment you have all been waiting for, the moment I have been delaying with my barely coherent ramblings on. . . . My FIRST reviews of 2017. . . . I present to you, What I’ve Watched Lately #2: Dave Bautista Edition!!!! (Warning: I take no responsibility for any feelings of letdown or disappointment in the following reviews that come as a direct result of the hype job I just performed).
(WRITER’S NOTE: After writing this, I realized it is WAY too long for one post so I will be splitting it into three parts to make for quicker reads. Sorry for the inconvenience. . . Or maybe you’re welcome for the convenience? Either way, it’s happening.)
The plot of this one is pretty simple and straightforward. It starts with some guy with a plain, white bread, unmemorable name (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan who, I’m told by IMDB, you might recognize from the TV show Supernatural. If you DO, in fact, recognize him from that show, then please never talk to me again because that show is a big steaming pile of dump). This boring guy needs money because his daughter is dying and he can’t afford the bills. The doctors tell him if he can’t come up with the money in a few days, they are going to wheel his daughter’s hospital bed out into the parking lot and let her die. . . Ok, they don’t say that exactly, but it’s something like that. The point is, he needs money or his daughter dies.
Luckily, this guy Luke Vaughn (I told you it was a lame name) works at a casino with the owner, a badass mobster named The Pope, played by the legendary Robert De Niro. Vaughn, having once been close to The Pope, decides to ask him for the money to help his daughter. The Pope basically tells him to shove off. Now, this scene is supposed to make De Niro out to be the bad guy. “Look at this guy. He won’t give this poor boring guy, who’s name I already forgot even though I just typed it two sentences ago, some money to help his kid. He’s a bad guy!” Right?. . . wrong! I’m on De Niro’s side. Sure I feel bad for Boring Guy, sure I feel bad for his kid, and sure Robert DePope has plenty of money to help him. But Pope is a businessman! He can’t just go around handing out money. If he gives this guy money today, he’s going to have twenty boring a-holes in his office tomorrow claiming they need money for their daughters. That’s not a good business plan.
So naturally, like any boring dude with a dying daughter would do, Vaughn decides to enlist the help of the bouncer of the casino (Dave Bautista) and rob the place. So their new crew gets together and plans their heist (get it? That’s where the title comes from). The movie spends about twenty minutes watching these guys, who clearly think they’re a lot smarter than they actually are, plan their heist. They then go to the casino and implement their genius plan, which basically goes like this; “I know the code to the lock on the super secure chain link cage they store all their money in. I can open that, we’ll steal the money, shoot anyone who tries to stop us, and we’ll run away.” Like I said, genius!
So everything goes smoothly and they get away with the money. The end. . . . Just kidding, that shit would be boring. They do get the money, but they get shot at, their getaway driver panics and drives off, and they settle for hijacking a city bus as their getaway vehicle. The rest of the movie is them all crammed on the bus with hostages, trying to figure out how to get away with it. The cops chase them (BONUS POINTS: One of the cops is Gina Carano and she is still gorgeous! BONUS POINTS TAKEN AWAY: Gina Carano is still the absolute worst actress alive) and to complicate matters,The Pope hires Zach Morris from Saved By The Bell to chase them and get his money back. Meanwhile, Boring Dude still has to figure out a way to get the money to the hospital to save his daughter.
The acting was surprisingly good for a straight to video release like this. De Niro gave more to his small role than he has given to any role in years. Dean Morgan is VERY good as the main character, Vaughn. Though the character is weak (and boring, have I mentioned that?) he milks all he can from the role and actually makes me feel genuine emotion towards the character at times. I give him credit for taking a terrible character and doing all he could to make him feel like an actual human being. The character still remains completely forgettable, but I place no blame on the actor, he did all he could.
Unfortunately, Bautista is also given a two dimensional, poorly written character. He’s the unhinged crazy robber to balance out Dean Morgan’s nice guy robber. He isn’t given much to do with the role other than yell a lot, point guns at people, and intimidate people. Bautista is not bad in the role. He truly is physically intimidating, and he plays the unhinged and increasingly unstable character very well. I just wish he had more to do. He shows he can play a role and play a character. Unfortunately, the character is written with zero depth or development, so he isn’t given an opportunity to show if he has any range as an actor or not.
Overall, Heist is a silly, pretty predictable, very average, by the books movie. Even the title is boring and vanilla! It feels as if the writers had a checklist of heist movie cliches and they made sure to include every single one of them. Heist brings nothing new to the genre. It is a completely mediocre movie that is slightly elevated by all the actors involved bringing their A game (except Gina Carano. . . Well, I think she actually did bring her A game. It’s just that her A game is complete garbage). If you are wanting some mindless entertainment while browsing Netflix one night, and you happen to be a huge fan of heist movies featuring former WWE stars, then give this one a shot.