A family vacation turns into a horror movie, when the clan clashes with a gang of brutal thieves trying to regain the cash they stole from an armored car.
Heist scenes are the coolest way to open a thriller, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The film starts with four thieves knocking over the impregnable vehicle. They pull off this nifty feat by having an ace in the hole (actually a fifth thief who is on the company payroll). Turns out they aren’t very loyal gang, which they prove by killing their own guy after he helps them get the money.
The robbery doesn’t go quietly and the group must hide the money to get out of the state. This they accomplish by hiding their ill-gotten gains amongst the luggage of a family going camping. They pull the switch at a rest stop. That scene should teach families to listen to Dad when he says, “No stops.”
The family in question is one in pieces. Dad has just gotten out of jail for a real estate swindle and is desperate to win back everyone’s trust. Unfortunately, his older son is halfway through being a teen, so it is an uphill battle before they even get started. It doesn’t help matters that the film takes place in the swamps of Louisiana, so everything is drenched in humidity.
The crooks try to run the family off the road to collect their dough. Dad tries to outrace them and winds up getting a ticket that turns into an arrest when he gets too close to the officer. Seeing as he is on parole, this is a violation. Dad winds up in jail and the family checks into a seedy motel. Mom wakes up to find the gang breaking into her room and barely escapes.
The police get the report and opt to release Dad. That is the last good news the family gets, as the gang soon catches up with them. Luckily, the bad guys are also coming apart at the seams. Half of the group thinks stashing the money with a family was a stupid idea, and the other half are a couple who always vote together.
It all comes down to a battle for survival, as the thieves soon learn that nobody messes with a family that isn’t enjoying their vacation. It is a fierce finale that finds Mom picking up an M-16, while Dad gets down and dirty with the gang’s leader in a fight so violent a steel cage couldn’t contain it.
This film represents a new wave for action flicks. Blockbusters on a budget. Instead of an expensive lead, like Bruce Willis, you get a talented thespian, Jim Caviezel (“Last Temptation of Christ”), who brings his A-game to every scene.
Suspense comes from cool twists instead of overblown action set pieces (no planes blow up or even show up here). It works because of a taut screenplay that allows you to get to know the family along the way and feel connected to their struggles. It is a bold mood that respects the audience for having an attention span that doesn’t need something blowing up every 10 minutes to stay interested.
It all comes courtesy of the “After Dark” film company. They started out by bankrolling low-budget horror flicks but have branched out into action with this movie and four others they put out in July (featuring action icons like Dolph Lundgren and Jean Claude Van-Damme). If the other films are anything like this one, then we may have new outlet for action flicks and a great place for talented thespians to get a shot at becoming the next action hero.
Best line: “Your soccer coach dad stole the money from us? That’s adorable.”
2012, rated R.