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Case Number 18016: Small Claims Court

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The Brooklyn Heist

Image Entertainment // 2009 // 85 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Chris Claro (Retired) // January 6th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Chris Claro tried to heist Brooklyn once, but couldn't fit it in the getaway vehicle.

The Charge

They're NOT all in it together.

The Case

Audacity is a strong arrow for a filmmaker to have in his quiver. Having the chutzpah to take chances, visually or otherwise, is what put guys like Tarantino on the map. Of course, the nervy stuff a director tries to pull off has to be in service to something, such as the plot. Unfortunately for The Brooklyn Heist, a lot of energy has gone into visually goosing a story that could have used another rewrite.

The script, by relative newcomers Brett Halsey and Julian Mark Kheel, focuses on three different troupes of criminals—two of whom are identified by ethnic epithets—who are out to filch a safe from a foul-mouthed, racist pawnshop owner (Phyllis Somerville, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). In addition to their obnoxious labels, each band of thieves is filmed in a style particular to it. For example, scenes featuring The Amateurs, the team led by Fitz (Danny Masterson, That '70s Show), is shot with film grain and scratches throughout the frame to suggest a low-budget '70s caper flick. The Sputniks, self-described "Arab Slavs," are shown in cold black and white, emulating expressionistic foreign films. And the gang of rappers following Ronald (Leon, Cool Runnings) is depicted in hyper-colorful music video style.

But for all of director Kheel's genre jumping, The Brooklyn Heist is a sputtering non-starter centered on an overlong setup that leads to an underwhelming heist. While the spirited animation of the opening credits accompanied by David Poe's 70s-crime drama music seems to promise a high-energy romp, the makers of The Brooklyn Heist appear to have been more enamored of their stylistic hopscotching than telling a compelling, coherent story.

Despite the lackluster script and unsatisfying denouement, Kheel is to be commended on at least trying something different. The takeoffs on the various film styles are well-realized—including one that is only used for a scene or two, emulating the look of '70s chopsocky flicks. To its credit, distributor Image has included on the DVD a bonus feature comparing the look of the original camera master of the film to the various effects Kheel applied to the final version, offering a peek inside the filmmaker's process. For such a presumably low-budget offering, Image's widescreen transfer is excellent, boasting both vibrant colors and sharp monochrome, with very little grain apparent. The film's audio is equally professional, with a clean balance of dialogue and music, whether it's hip-hop, traditional Russian, or '70s porn wah-wah.

The Verdict

While the filmmakers deserve an A for trying something different, ultimately The Brooklyn Heist is a disappointment, a twist-free caper more about style than substance. Guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy
• Crime

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Featurette
• Trailer


• IMDb

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