211 (2018)

211 first published by RealCrime Magazine

Already recreated in Yves Simoneau’s made-for-TV docudrama 44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out (2003), the 1997 ‘Battle of North Hollywood‘ (1997) also inspires 211, even if York Alec Shackleton’s film shifts the post-heist shootout to present-day Massachusetts (or Sofia, Bulgaria doubling for it), changes the two heavily armed bank robbers to a rogue unit of four ex-Special Forces mercenaries, and visits upon US soil a nightmarish brand of homegrown terror that resembles and reflects the nation’s military conduct abroad.

It’s also not very good. As about-to-retire cop Mike Chandler (Nicolas Cage) and his son-in-law Steve (Dwayne Cameron) take bullied high-schooler Kenny (Michael Rainey Jr) on a ride along, they chance upon a geared-up bank robbery in progress – and somehow the chaotic shoot ’em up that ensues also manages to include shrill E.R. drama and family soap opera, with Mike seeking to regain the love of his estranged, pregnant daughter Lisa (Sophie Skelton). Everybody speaks fluent exposition or perfunctory cliché (“you are not dying today!”), Cage gets his expected if entirely gratuitous wigout moment (met hilariously with the line, “Chandler, you’ve got to de-escalate!”), and all the later heroics serve as uneasily irrational justification for the police’s earlier casual racism and bullying. 

Meanwhile Italian Interpol agent Rossi (Alexandra Dinu) wanders incongruously (and smugly) through the small American town, her Cassandra-like pronouncements about the perpetrators’ MO ignored by the authorities. The only real surprise here is that Mike repeatedly misses the opportunity to declare, “I’m too old for this shit.” Watching 211, you’ll sure feel that way…

© Anton Bitel