The Vault (2 stars)

The Vault

James Franco and Taryn Manning feature in this muddled horror-heist flick

Pitched as a film where 'heist meets horror', The Vault is a muddled tale of two halves. In the first, a bank robbery unfolds with typical B-movie precision. Lead by tough ex-con Leah (Francesca Eastwood), bickering gang members work towards a common cause of stealing $500,000 in cash. Terrorised bank employees just hope to stay alive. The robbery is efficiently staged and writer-director Dan Bush builds enough sense of unease to keep you guessing what else might be going on.

When the robbery starts to go wrong, the film takes a leftfield turn towards the supernatural. Assistant bank manager Ed (James Franco) tries to keep everyone calm. He informs the gang that there is an old vault in the dark, creepy basement that contains enough money to satisfy their greed and guarantee everyone's safety.

40 years ago, John Carpenter might have made a tight little chiller out of these ingredients but Bush struggles to reconcile the thriller elements with the appetite for video nasty-style flourishes of gore. The story needs more clarity; attempts to make the robbers sympathetic and justify their actions are perfunctory at best. We know that Leah's brother Michael (Scott Haze) needs the cash to pay off some bad guys but the details are sketchy and the story grows fuzzier as it unfolds. Horror moments consist mainly of murky figures lumbering around in the dark, making for a film that often leaves you confused rather than beguiled.

A decent cast includes Taryn Manning from Orange Is the New Black as fierce gang member Vee and Clifton Collins Jr as Detective Iger. But you do still wonder what attracted the bewilderingly prolific Franco to a role that mostly requires him to furrow his brow and look anguished.

Selected release from Fri 8 Sep.

The Vault

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 31min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Dan Bush
  • Cast: Francesca Eastwood, Taryn Manning, James Franco, Scott Haze, Clifton Collins Jr
  • UK release: 8 September 2017

When a bank robbery goes wrong, assistant manager Ed (Franco) tells the robbers of an old vault in the basement that contains plenty of cash; then things take a turn for the horrific. Confused ‘heist meets horror’ film wastes a decent cast (Manning, Collins Jr) on a vague story that grows fuzzier as it unfolds.