Arts movie review

Masterminds or brainless?

Turns out it’s not so hard to rob a bank

7918 masterminds
Kristen Wiig and Zach Galifianakis star in Relativity Studio’s upcoming release, "Masterminds."
Glen Wilson Copyright: © 2014 Armored Car Productions, LLC

Directed by Jared Hess
Starring Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Jason Sudeikis
Rated PG-13
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What happens when money-grubbing fools and incompetent law officials collide? You get Masterminds. Masterminds is a 2016 heist comedy film with crazy characters, a fantastical premise, and a loopy, gravity-defying plot that kisses up to social stereotypes and takes pride in aggrandizing its own nonsensicality.

The story is based on the true story of the 1997 Loomis Fargo Robbery in North Carolina, which, at the time, was the second-largest robbery on U.S. soil. A total of $17.3 million (over $25 million in today’s dollars) was stolen, and several million dollars are still unrecovered. Eight people were eventually convicted for having connections to the crime. David Ghantt and Steve Chambers, the main masterminds of the crime, served seven and eleven years in prison respectively. All convicts have since been released, and many now have quite decent jobs.

In the Masterminds movie, Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson), longing to make himself rich and elevate his family into the social elite, devises a plan to rob the Loomis Fargo vault. To bring his plan to fruition, he enlists the help of Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig). Using her feminine charms, Kelly convinces David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), her dopey ex-coworker at Loomis Fargo, to steal $17.3 million from the vault.

Unfortunately, these characters are quite the opposite of masterminds. Idiotic mistakes snowball into a colossal ordeal that eventually turns the co-conspirators against one another. Soon, the FBI are out to hunt David Ghantt down in Mexico. To make matters worse, Steve is also out for Ghantt’s blood, hiring hit man Michael McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) to murder him.

Masterminds’ zany plot makes it enjoyable to watch, and viewers will laugh along with the characters’ absurd antics and irreverent dialogue. However, the storyline dips its toes in clichés, and the characters are wacky to the point of disbelief. The film aggrandizes the wealthy and upper-class while downplaying the gravity of crimes such as robbery and murder. Incompetent police officers stumble over each other in search of the criminals, poking fun at our nation’s law-enforcement system.

Masterminds also contains potentially controversial elements: it portrays Mexican cops as less capable than American police officers and bathes lavishly in Mexican stereotypes, with sombreros, enchiladas, and “hola amigos” galore.

Overall, Masterminds is like a caffeine kick of silly, stupid, and fun. However, for art critics and diligent enthusiasts who appreciate complex, realistic characters and convincing plot development, Masterminds is not the right movie for you.