The dream of the ’90s is alive in “The Hurricane Heist,” a skillfully made formula flick that in a previous era would have starred someone named Skeet or Keanu as the ordinary joe who helps a federal agent stop a band of thieves from robbing a Treasury building during a Category 5 hurricane. When’s the last time you saw a heist movie where the robbers were unequivocally the bad guys?
Directed by early Vin Diesel-whisperer Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious,” “xXx”), the film stars Toby Kebbell as Will Rutledge, an Alabama good ol’ boy who saw his father killed by Hurricane Andrew back in ’92 and then became a meteorologist. Will is frightened of the very thing he now studies (don’t worry, another character states this explicitly), driving around the Gulf Coast in his tank-like storm-chaser vehicle and warning the National Weather Service that his gut tells him Tropical Storm Tammy is going to be much, much bigger than they realize.
In the small nearby town of Gulfport there’s a Treasury Department building where $600 million in decommissioned currency is about to be shredded and hauled away under the supervision of ATF agent Casey Corbin (Maggie Grace), who fills the “cop with a past” role. (She refers to a bad decision she made “back in Utah.” Yeah, you and me both, sister.) They’re trying to hurry because there’s a storm a-comin’, but the shredder is down and then the generator goes out. The local repairman contracted to fix it? Will Rutledge’s brother, Breeze (Ryan Kwanten), who also watched dad get hurricaned and now owns the old man’s repair shop. The brothers are estranged, but Will swings by to warn Breeze to get out of town before Tammy arrives, doing so at the very moment Casey Corbin arrives to bring him back to fix the generator.
Meanwhile, back at the Treasury building, a heist is happening! It was an inside job, allowing us the pleasure of discovering who the turncoat was. They capture Breeze and make him fix the generator while Will and Casey, outside the locked-down Treasury, figure out a way to stop the villains from hacking into the computer system to open the vault. Is there a sequence where Will uses his knowledge of weather to set a trap for the bad guys? There is indeed. What about a scene where Will throws hubcaps into the gale-force wind, turning those hubcaps into deadly projectiles? Yes, there is that, too. Scenes where people cling to speeding vehicles are also to be found in abundance, executed with Cohen’s adrenaline-pumping style.
Though it sounds bombastic and ludicrous, the film is actually rather unassuming for its genre. It’s not trying to be the BIGGEST or LOUDEST action-weather-destruction-heist movie, just a good one. It keeps its head down and gets to work. The screenplay (credited to Jeff Dixon and Scott Windhauser, rewriting something by “Drop Dead Fred” writers Carlos Davis and Anthony Fingleton) has enough moving parts to keep the action from getting stale, giving the heroes and villains mini-missions that must be performed almost simultaneously: fixing the generator, hacking the computer, disabling a cell tower, and so forth. Toby Kebbell’s dopey-sounding but well educated redneck meteorologist is likable, as is Maggie Grace’s decisive, take-no-prisoners federal agent. A host of other colorful characters on both sides of the law populate the film. It’s junk food, but it’s well-made junk food.
B- (1 hr., 43 min.; )