David Ghantt discovers the true meaning of adventure far beyond his wildest dreams. He is an uncomplicated man stuck in a monotonous life. Day in and day out he drives an armored vehicle, transporting millions of other people's money with no escape in sight. The only glimmer of excitement is his flirtatious work crush Kelly Campbell who soon lures him into the scheme of a lifetime. Along with a group of half-brained criminals led by Steve Chambers and an absurdly faulted heist plan, David manages the impossible and makes off with $17 million in cash...only problem is he foolishly hands the money over to this wild group of double crossers and has been set up to take the fall. With the bandits blowing the millions on lavish and ridiculous luxuries, they leave behind a glaring trail of evidence. Now on the lam and in over his head, David must dodge the authorities, evade a hilarious hit man, Mike McKinney, and try to turn the tables on the ones he trusted most. Written by
more enjoyable than most critics give it credit for
Stories about stupid criminals are funny. And when those stories are true, besides laughing, we find ourselves shaking our heads in mocking disbelief. Just think about how many times you've read such stories in an Email or heard them on the radio or on TV and how amused you were picturing what was being described. Well, "Masterminds" (PG-13, 1:34) brings us a true story of stupid criminals in vivid detail – helped along by some of the funniest actors in movies today – including a few "Saturday Night Live" veterans. This ensemble comedically dramatizes the true story of a 1997 North Carolina Loomis Fargo robbery, which remains one of the biggest heists in U.S. history. Although the script by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivey, along with the direction of Jared Hess ("Napoleon Dynamite", "Nacho Libre") and the comic stylings of the talented cast, adds a significant amount of humor to the action, the film's story and many of its details stick very close to the facts of the case.
David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) is a clumsy and socially awkward, but basically honest and well-meaning armored car driver in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is engaged to the even more awkward and self-centered trailer park dwelling Jandice (played with a sort of catatonic glee by SNL's Kate McKinnon), but David has fallen for his fellow driver, Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig). Kelly lives (also in a mobile home) with an old friend named Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) and his wife, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Ellis). When Steve hears on the news about a recent Loomis Fargo robbery, he hatches a scheme to use Kelly's connection to David to get him to rob Charlotte's Loomis Fargo. Kelly is reluctant to play on David's affections, but she'd love to get a share of that money and David is tempted by the promise of a new life with Kelly down in Mexico. After Kelly "trains" David for the things that he'll have to do to commit the robbery (and how to possibly "live off the land" until it's "safe" for Kelly to join him in Mexico), and with the help of a few other down-on-their-luck (and none-too-bright) co-conspirators, the plan is all set.
Let the comedic missteps begin! David is a trusted employee with keys to a Loomis Fargo vault, which he accesses after hours. In spite of his natural clumsiness and lack of logical thinking, David somehow manages to load a van with a fortune in bundled bills and gets the vehicle to his fellow criminals waiting outside. They stash the cash, giving David a few thousand dollars (stuffed into his underwear) for his flight to Mexico, where he thinks that he'll soon be reunited with Kelly. Back in North Carolina, an FBI agent (played by SNL's Leslie Jones) knows that David did the deed and she's working hard to piece together the rest of the puzzle. Steve gets nervous and decides to take out a contract on David, hiring an old friend turned hit man, Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) for the job. Mike turns out to be a pretty unhinged hit man and his trip to Mexico in search of David ends up being a comedy of errors. David eventually figures out that he's the patsy and does his best to turn the tables on his partners in crime.
"Masterminds" is a hilarious send-up of that real-life heist from the late 90s. And not all comedies that depict real-life stupid criminals do the job this well. (See 2013's unfunny "Pain & Gain". And by "see", I mean as an example. Don't actually watch the movie.) This script's enhancements to the true story make for good plotting and make great use of the cast's significant and diverse comedic talents. The humor comes from a combination of the colorful characters' personality traits, Galifianakis' talent for slapstick, some gross-out humor and a lot of good old fashioned stupid criminal mistakes. The movie never oversells its characters or its humor, even actually keeping some moments too low-key. Not all the jokes work, but there are plenty of great sight gags and other laugh-out-loud moments that make this movie exactly what such cinematic experiences are supposed to be – fun. "A-"
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