Whatever you might have expected from a film with a title that makes The Fast and the Furious sound subtle, Rob Cohen’s The Hurricane Heist is a profoundly intelligent character piece that explores the psychology of its criminal antagonists, whilst making insightful comments on the nature of climate change in the modern world. Yes, of course we’re messing with you.
There is a sequence early on in The Hurricane Heist when it genuinely seems as though the rest of the film is going to unfold in Oz. We’re in Alabama and the year is 1992; a father and his two boys are being pursued in their car by Storm Andrew, a fearsome and destructive hurricane that is laying waste to the Gulf. On coming off the road, the father dumps his kids in an inconveniently ramshackle and abandoned old hut, before heading back out to tie down the car. Then: Andrew strikes, Dad’s a goner and his kids can only wail as the house begins move… Sadly, they don’t end up in the merry old land but we do get a hilarious shot of a Death Eater skull roaring in the sky and – rest assured – there’s plenty of colour in the fantastical remainder.
Thirty-five years later and similarities to last year’s Geostorm remain strong, the boys have grown up and another storm – Tammy – is on the way. Will (Toby Kebbell) is now an expert meteorologist who defiantly knows better than his colleagues (‘Damn your projections, I’m telling you this one’s gunna be off the scale!’) but is also afraid of storms, while the pricelessly named Breeze (Ryan Kwanten) is an ex-marine handyman, who just happens to be the only man in town who can fix the generator when a top-security federal storage unit, loaded with $600m, goes tits up.
Whereas Geostorm mashed with space cinema, the twist here is that Cohen, along with writers Jeff Dixon and Scott Windhauser, has taken America’s obsession with weather-based disaster fare and united it with the larky heist genre. Not only must characters A, B and C survive literally the biggest and baddest ever hurricane since literally ever, they also have to prevent the most massivist heist since ever too. As Ben Cross’ Sheriff Dixon drolls, ‘I knew today was going to be a sh*t storm.’
Having pulled off the first Fast and Furious film back in 2001 with miraculous watchabity, Rob Cohen is perfect for this material. From Will’s multipurpose bat-mobile to the scene in which he climbs up signal tower mid-storm and survives being hit by a flying car door and triumphantly stupid set-piece in a shopping centre, this is popcorn munching hokum at its best. Cohen and his cast take none of this seriously and have a riot because of it. Kebbell in particular revels in the chance to bellow out a Southern American accent: Hurr-i-cAne!
‘You know, I think you’re a little bit psychotic,’ says one character to another as she veers off-road – as so many of them do in these films. ‘You know, I think you’re a little bit right,’ comes the reply. Brilliant.