During the end titles of Precious Cargo we get a close up of some dog muck. It would be nice to think this was a bit of meta-humour or a moment of candid self-awareness from first time director Max Adams, but unfortunately his risible, derivative heist movie has the audacity to actually think it’s quite good. Playing like a stuntman’s show reel – sans narrative coherence – the only thing more annoying than the general ineptness, predictable story and Bruce Willis, is the film’s smug air of self-satisfaction as it seeks to subvert tropes it barely manages to achieve.
Jack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is a professional thief with a line in limp one-liners and violent robbery. Imagine Danny Ocean if George Clooney shopped at Lidl and didn’t much care about the body count. Jack’s got a surrogate family crew, including a smartass whipper-snapper sniper Logan (Jenna B. Kelly), and a blossoming romance with a boring vet, played by Lydia Hull. Life seems good, but for the arrival of pregnant ex-girlfriend Karen (Claire Forlani). Karen’s also a thief, but as well as the emotional baggage and a protruding baby bump, she also brings with her the wrath of her former crime boss Eddie (Bruce Willis), who she has hacked off by pulling an unsanctioned robbery.
In order to pay him the money she owes, she needs Jack to help her with another job, robbing $30 million worth of gems from an armored car. The job looks tough but as Jack ‘gets the team together’ and ‘plans the heist’, it’s almost as though he’s seen a bunch of movies in which these things have been done many, many times before and much, much better. Not only does this film compare unfavourably to Smokin’ Aces, it is not worthy to be in the same company as such drek as Knight and Day. It’s not even Ocean’s 13, for crying out loud.
Other stuff happens. There’s a chase on water, a chase on land and a chase in a hotel corridor – and there’s that show reel feel. The action is certainly… competent. Lots of guns are fired and dialogue that’s supposed to be hardboiled has a runny yolk throughout. Runny white as well. Crime boss Eddie plays chess – “It’s a metaphor” he helps us out – and doesn’t like his ties. It’d be sad to see Willis fallen so low, if it wasn’t for the fact he so obviously can’t be bothered even to pick up the check any more. Just leave the money on the night stand. There’s an alcoholic driver whose girlfriend shouts at him for wetting the bed again – “it smells of whiskey and sadness”. Quite. There’s a villain who looks a bit like a thin Rupert Everett with the acting chopped off. And our hero Jack relaxes by hitting golf balls into the sea, which looks pointless and not very fun. There’s that candid self-awareness again. Not.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty