Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Heist 88, on Showtime

Contemporary caper movies clearly suggest computerization made the banking system more susceptible to hacking-savvy thieves. Yet, the truth is the greatest vulnerabilities in a security system are the spots that require human touches. Jeremy Horne is a master at exploiting those human weaknesses. In 1988, Chicago’s largest bank was on the verge of computerization, but that left just enough time for Horne to try to pull off a big score in Manhaj Huda’s Heist 88, which premieres Friday on Showtime (and Paramount+ with Showtime).

Horne (loosely inspired by the real-life Armand Moore) has already been convicted of fraud in Detroit, but before he must surrender himself, he jaunts down to Chicago for his brother’s memorial service. That night, he is super-interested to learn his nephew Marshall King, has several friends who work in the wire transfer department of a major bank, but they are all underpaid and under-appreciated. Of course, that gets Uncle Jeremy thinking.

They know the CFOs and money movers who frequently call to transfer money. Therefore, if they also know their codes (confirmed independently over the phone), they can transfer their funds. Horne just needs to arrange the right distractions to help facilitate the process. He also must maintain the trust of King and his friends, but that gets tricky when he keeps springing new accomplices on them. He does it anyway, because he wants to arrange a nice pay day for his old cronies, Buddha Ray and Bree Barnes. Plus, he will need their experience as fellow conmen.

There is a lot fun capery stuff in
Heist 88. There is also an intriguing time-capsule dimension, capturing the banking industry in a time of technological transition (which banking industry employees should particularly appreciate). This was the end of an era for an old school bluff-your-way-through crook like Horne.

Unfortunately, the social commentary is often intrusive and way off target. Seriously, 1988 was a great year for economic opportunity—for everyone in America, across the board. However, screenwriter Dwayne Johnson-Cochran makes it sound like the early 1930s. It is a shame, because it interrupts some great performances.

It is always cool to watch crafty character actors like Courtney B. Vance and Keith David do their things.
Heist 88 gives them both a good showcase to do exactly that, as Horne and Ray, respectively. Keesha Sharp (whom you hopefully do not recognize from Titanic 666) is also terrific as Barnes.

On the other hand, many of the twentynothings are a bit underwhelming and oftentimes annoying. The standout exception is definitely Xavier Clyde, as the nerdy and dangerously under-estimated Danny Pugh.

Huda has a nice eye for Chicago backdrops, but he wastes the opportunity to engage in some ‘80’s nostalgia, which never gets old. Still, we must give him and Johnson-Cochran credit for fully embracing their ironic final twist. It could have been great, but there is probably enough that is good in
Heist 88 for most movie caper fans. Recommended despite its poor understanding of the economics of the era, Heist 88 premieres Friday (9/29) on the Showtime and Paramount+ apps.