Netflix’s latest release, F. Gary Gray’s Lift, aspires to be a thrilling heist comedy but falls short of delivering the smoothness and charisma needed to make it memorable. It is no Snatch or Ocean’s 11. It is not even an Aanken—yes, I’m evoking the Vipul Amrutlal Shah film that saw Amitabh Bachchan train three blind men to pull off a bank robbery, which was hands-down far more entertaining than Lift manages to be.
The plot of Lift centres around a master thief, Cyrus, played by Kevin Hart and his merry band of straw hat characters—Camila the Pilot, Mi-Sun the Hacker, Magnus the Safecracker, Luke the Engineer, and there’s Vincent D’Onofrio’s Denton. He is a terrible Master of Disguise, which was supposed to be a whole funny shtick, but it never lands.
Caught stealing and selling a Van Gogh by Agent Gladwell (Mbatha-Raw), the Interpol gets them in a bind. The thieves are offered a deal: they can either go to jail for life or help Interpol steal from a bigger baddie, Lars Jorgensen, who regularly feeds his enemies and traitors to rabid dogs. Their target is an impossible heist on a 777-passenger flight from London to Zurich, carrying half a billion dollars worth of gold, which the Interpol cannot intercept themselves for some convoluted reason.
Unfortunately, what is on paper a moderately fun, albeit tired, premise turns out to be the most boring heist ever executed by the friendliest bunch of thieves. They are all nice because, ultimately, they do it for the greater good and not because this impossible heist is their ultimate jail-free card. And nearly no one bails on the mission despite being given a way out. There’s also the caveat that they only ever rob those who deserve it.
Kevin Hart, usually known for his comedic prowess, fails to bring the suave smoothness required for a character who is nicknamed ‘The Boss’. Hart tries too hard to be a cool modern-day Robin Hood, and it falls flatter than a punctured tire on a desolate highway. The lack of comedic elements, whether physical or otherwise, is a missed opportunity. The few glimpses of humour in the film are thanks to David Proud’s sardonic Harry, and it is nearly not enough.
The generic dialogues do not help elevate the film’s overall blandness. You can make yourself dinner, scroll for a good while, finish your dinner, and still not miss anything that vital. The characters oscillate between being half-note and no-note, a script an AI could have written, and tired tropes galore. Lift also has plenty of unimpressive performances from the cast, from Gugu Mbatha-Raw to Jean Reno. Billy Magnussen as Magnus stands out as the liveliest of the bunch, but his crazed puppy dog energy isn’t enough to salvage anything.
Speaking of the action sequences, even the things that are supposed to go boom tend to do so very un-cinematically. The makeup on Mbatha-Raw is particularly subpar, and despite being shot in picturesque locations like Venice, Tuscany, London, and Northern Ireland, the film fails to be visually striking.
Despite being so lacklustre, Lift has only one saving grace; it is still better than last year’s sky heist film Heart of Stone, which had the most insipid performances a cast has ever delivered as an ensemble. While the Gal Gadot spy drama was maddeningly foul, Lift’s worst fault is that it is expectedly formulaic, tediously so.
You can still watch Lift on Netflix if you wish or tune into any of the other heist films available on the streaming platform to quench your thirst. Try looking up our essential binges on Netflix recommendations instead.