The Vault Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with supernatural horror. It’s a clever idea, but the script isn’t nearly as smart as it’s trying to be, falling back on feeble attempts to generate suspense by throwing every cliche imaginable at the screen. The watchable cast makes sure we don’t get bored, but it isn’t long before we begin to suspect that there’s nothing to this film at all.

It’s set in a bank that has a history of robberies, including one that turned extremely violent years ago. Now sisters Lea and Vee (Francesca Eastwood and Taryn Manning) are working with their dim but useful brother Michael (Scott Haze) and a couple of hotheaded thugs (Keith Loneker and Michael Milford) to stage a heist in broad daylight. But nothing goes as planned, especially as a detective (Clifton Collins Jr.) immediately turns up outside. Inside, assistant bank manager Ed (James Franco) is trying to cooperate, but head teller Susan (Q’orianka Kilcher) won’t stop talking about how the bank is haunted.

James Franco stars in The Vault

Despite the decent set-up, the script seems even less in control of the narrative than Lea and Vee are of this robbery. There’s not much that the actors can do with these bare-boned characters, most of whom vanish from the screen for long periods of time with nothing at all to do. Dialogue consists mainly of smalltalk that tells us little about who these people are or what they’re up to. It’s a nice way to create a disorienting edge to the movie, but not so good at helping us care about anyone. Basically, all of the robbers are loose cannons ready to fly off the hook at any moment. Haze plays the only one with a shred of a conscience. Meanwhile, the hostages do little but dither. And Collins could have shot his entire role on a lunch break.

At least there’s plenty of talent lurking around to keep things vaguely interesting. As a director, Bush goes for atmosphere rather than believability, although his attempt to generate terror basically consists of having blurred or masked figures lurking in the background. And when things move into an unnecessarily blacked-out basement, we can’t even see them. There are some gleefully gruesome moments, although the real violence remains off-screen. Basically, it’s a waste of a terrific idea, mainly because the filmmakers forgot to include at least one character the audience cares about.