On 4 hours’ sleep, I deliberately chose a movie I thought would be impossible to sleep through. I went off the premise of The Vault: two estranged sisters with a sympathetic reason for turning to a life of crime end up robbing a bank assistant-managed by an everyman-mustachioed James Franco. !But! Down in the titular vault, where over $6 million lies, there are some spooky goings-on. We’ve seen this anti-hero set-up before, with last year’s Don’t Breathe. Surely this would be just as decent?
This was two hours of my evening I might have directed towards a better film. I say ‘two hours’, but I frequently had to skip back a few minutes to catch what I missed during half-sleep drifts. The movie was 91 minutes.
It starts with the illusion of strength: the trope of breeding instant, false engagement by laying on thick an infectiously catchy, classic song (Tommy James and the Shondells’ ‘Crimson and Clover’), that becomes a narrative thread of its own. Then a lot of James Franco being on screen. Then the heist starts. One of the sisters is played by Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black‘s ‘Pennsatucky’), who is somehow incredibly watchable as overly made-up, mouthy trailer trash (even though her dialogue improv is lacking). The other is Clint Eastwood’s youngest daughter Francesca, a pouty kewpie doll who could pass for the love child of Uma Thurman’s and Amanda Seyfried’s eyes. Excruciatingly miscast, she delivers lines with a distracting variety of pitch and tone, as if imitating other, proper actors. For those who may find interest, the camera spends a great deal drinking in close-ups of her tits, ass, legs and ass again. Given her outfit, perhaps it’s an unofficial Tomb Raider audition. Either way, it’s all just one great big nepotitsm ocean of yawn.
The other three heist-makers are reduced to extra bodies for horror fodder, one of which has a genuinely charming conversation with the head bank teller about peeing, another with ‘white power’ tattooed lazily across his face, and one who doesn’t get much of a chance but to look intense and sing ‘wiring guy’-type songs before being served up as the film’s first kill.
It’s never quite clear what kind of film this wants to be; actor/character issues aside, the heist portion is tense and compelling, but the supernatural elements feel like an afterthought to try to cheaply differentiate this from better bank job films. The fact that all the creepiness takes place in the vault, which then breaks off into awkwardly-executed and badly-lit gore, packages the film as two for the price of none: it’s too much of a tonal sideways jump to feel like these stories belong anywhere next to each other.
I wanted to like this. Sadly, the only thing shocking in this so-called horror is its painfully dull pacing. By the film’s campfire-horror-style ‘twist’ ending, you might be left wondering if Franco went back in time and filmed this before Freaks and Geeks.