“John? Harry? Steve McQueen? I don’t know what to call you anymore.“
Dir. Mark Steven Johnson
Runtime: 91 minutes
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Rachael Taylor, Forest Whitaker.
In 180 characters, what’s it about?
Based on a real story from 1972; a group of thieves attempt to steal illegal contributions and blackmail money that President Nixon shouldn’t actually have anyway.
This is a nice and simple film which is straight forward and not overloaded with twists and turns. Set primarily in the 1970’s you would expect it to be colourful and stylized, and thankfully it is. It feels like a good old-fashioned film which doesn’t throw too much at an audience and just concentrates on telling a simple story which is loosely based in reality.
I was more familiar with director Mark Steven Johnson’s previous work directing “Daredevil” (2003) and “Ghost Rider” (2007), but here he handles the true story of Harry Barber well. Although it is based on a true story, I am sure that writers Ken Hixon and Keith Sharon took some liberties to make the film look pretty, flow nicely, and remain entertaining. If they did, it worked nicely – if they didn’t, then that makes the whole story a little more mesmerizing to me.
The film starts in 1980 with Steve McQueen… I mean Harry Barber, pretending to be called Steve McQueen (Travis Fimmel), telling his girlfriend Molly Murphy (Rachael Taylor) a story about his past, and that he isn’t really called Steve McQueen. In the 1970’s, Harry, a big fan of the actor Steve McQueen, lives next to a refurbished theatre and works for Enzo Rotella (William Fichtner). He gets a big break one day thanks to his driving skills, which moves him off a low paid job at Enzo’s small warehouse, to being one of the participants in an up-and-coming bank job plan. Together with his brother and the rest of the gang, they plan to rob a bank in California which is apparently hiding $30 million in illegal contributions and blackmail money which belongs the President Nixon. On the gang’s tail is FBI Agent Howard Lambert (Forest Whitaker) who is taking pressure from high powers to solve the case and catch Steve McQueen.
Before watching this film I did some research because I hadn’t heard much about it. I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of love for it. After watching it I thought it was a bit of a hidden gem and it is a pity that more people hadn’t heard of it. It looked good, it had a nice soundtrack, and the characters were engaging. Although the film uses grown-up themes or crime and deceit, there is plenty of humour attached to it still, it was nice that the film didn’t take itself too seriously.
If you are a fan of classic cars then you are in for a treat with this film. There are some absolute classics in this film , like: a 1962 Cadillac Convertible; a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C3; 1965 Chevrolet El Camino and Impala; 1968 – 1968 Ford Mustang’s; a 1973 Lincoln Continental; a 1968 Pontiac GTO… plenty to wet the appetite of car enthusiasts.
Travis Fimmel in the lead role as Harry is likable. There were times when he looked like his heart wasn’t in it, but that’s the strength of his character portrayal, and in a way, it was a homage to how Steve McQueen appeared in some of his films too – a bit blasé and “whatever”. Regardless of how he sometimes came across, his love for his brother and Molly were undeniable, and his development which concluded the film was a nice character arc. You might have seen Fimmel in the hit TV show “Vikings” as Ragnar Lothbrok, or as Anduin Lothar in “Warcraft” (2016). It is strange to see him without facial fuzz, but likewise it is nice to see him extending his acting resume.
Not only is this film a bank robbery/ heist film, but there is also an undertone of a love story too. Rachael Taylor plays Molly Murphy who takes the eye of Harry. Together they have an idyllic romance where they forget the world and just enjoy their togetherness. They are both messed up in their own way, but when they are together it doesn’t matter because, although we don’t see much of their matured romance, we are led to believe that together they are whole.
I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would do. It is not a film which is likely to win a lot of awards but it’s certain a nice film to enjoy without too much effort. It looks good, it sounds nice, and it’s generally pretty and harmless. The only critique I can really muster is that it had the potential to offer more, and at times the pace does feel a little slow because of how simple it was left. Still though, it’s heart-warming and like it’s central character its intentions are in the right place so I’d happily recommend newcomers to this film.