Lift (2024)

Lift Review


Netflix can be relied on to apply their formula: they take a familiar box office trope the big-budget action movie, the international spy thriller, the hitman and car chase extravaganza repackage it for the laptop screen with increasingly throwaway wrapping paper, attach a name star or two demanding a hefty paycheck, release it and forget about it. What you get Sweet Girl, The Adam Project, The Gray Man etc are often widely watched but little-discussed disposable blockbusters in house style (overlit, frenetic) with no real staying power or distinctiveness of flavour (to be fair to Netflix and its rivals in this regard: does anyone remember Apple’s Ghosted?).

So going into Lift Netflix’s latest collaboration with comedian Kevin Hart and an old idea (in this case, smart thieves with expensive toys versus scary bad guys) — expectations are low and familiar territory well-trodden. Nor does much of what happens next serve to distinguish this film from its predecessors. It is a streaming action flick through-and-through from the first minute when Hart’s charming conman Cyrus Whitaker struts into a Venetian art auction; stock characters abound as do music video flairs and wealth porn and limp flashes of personality striving for that lowest common denominator.

At least Lift written by Daniel Kunka has the multiplex-tested know-how of F Gary Gray at the helm; director of The Italian Job et al plus such music videos as Ice Cube’s It Was A Good Day and TLC’s Waterfalls so we know we’re in dumb-but-possibly-fun hands here. How dumb you find it probably depends on how entertained your brain is feeling right now: there’s an opening heist plotline in Venice centred around an NFT followed by half-jokes about how NFTs were dismissed as a passing fad… But what I’m saying is that Gray knows how to direct a hectic action sequence and the cat-and-mouse chase between Cyrus and Interpol officer Abby Gladwell (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) through the canals of Venice is impressive stuff, very stressful, also I fear the wakes may sink the city faster.

See, usually Hart plays either the wacky, hapless foil or the good guy doing his best or the everyman sidekick (he was in The Man From Toronto – another Netflix action flick I reviewed this year but had to Google for this sentence because it left so little impression). But here he’s cast against type as a hyper competent leader of a heist ring who of course only robs from people who deserve it; which doesn’t fit well with his physical/loud brand of comedy that’s always trying to break out through his smooth-talking-charmer facade. “The rules were already broken for someone like me,” he deadpans at one point: you can see him itching for a punchline.

That line is meant to charm Abby, with whom Cyrus once shared a five-day fling while both were undercover and their mutual suspicion still lingers; so Huxley her boss played by Sam Worthington with great strain and skeeve factor — orders her to make peace with her art thief nemesis in the name of world peace; if Cyrus and his crew don’t steal $50m worth of gold bars being transported from London to Zurich then arch-evil billionaire Lars Jorgenson (Jean Reno) will pay hackers to create havoc for profit (he’s shorted some stocks or something; there are Northern Irish henchmen involved).

If this seems a bit like Ocean’s 11 with a Fast and Furious twist, that’s because it is. Even though Hart doesn’t exactly make for a believable crew boss, Gray knows how to direct an action sequence. There’s a certain base-level pleasure to be had in watching the gang go about their impossible business of stealing both the gold and the commercial jet ferrying it — the daredevil pilot Camilla (Úrsula Corberó), the over-caffeinated safecracker Magnus (a delightful Billy Magnussen), hacker Mi-Sun (Yun Jee Kim), engineer Luc (Viveik Kalra) and disguise artist Denton (Vincent D’Onofrio). Maybe I’m just primed by a door falling off a Boeing 737 mid-air recently, but the in-flight sequences once everything is under way time-crunched logistics, hand-to-hand combat during turbulence, couple plane barrel rolls got my blood pressure up.

In other words: There’s enough here to keep many people entertained for an hour-and-44-minute running time. But with everybody so thinly drawn and no chemistry between Hart and Mbatha-Raw whatsoever (it’s not for lack of trying on her part), what happens during Lift isn’t different or memorable enough from any number of other movies where things explode while motor mouthed criminals squabble before joining together against a greater evil.

Watch Lift For Free On Gomovies.

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