It’s a mixed path to the perfect heist movie. There’s Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975) that inspired elements of Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” (2006), as well as Lumet’s other heist movie “The Anderson Tapes” (1971) that helped evolve Sean Connery’s persona beyond that of James Bond. There are the originals and remakes of “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960 and 2001) and “The Thomas Crowne Affair” (1968 and 1999). And then there are those cult classic stand-alones “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) and “A Fish Called Wanda” (1988). And whichever one you consider a favorite, it often has to do with a clever and engaging plot.
This weekend, “Wasteland” opens at Cinema Village, offering its own mark on the genre. Built around a young man’s mission to serve revenge on a London kingpin, it is an engaging portrait of the journey one takes to make it in life when friends are your lone assets. The film stars Luke Treadaway, Iwan Rheon (who plays Ramsay Snow on HBO’s “Game of Thrones”), Matthew Lewis (best know for his portrayal of Neville Longbottom in the “Harry Potter” films) and Gerard Kearns, and is the feature debut of writer-director Rowan Athale. “Wasteland” is a fresh take on the heist, focused more on a strong narrative than the thrill of the crime.
The movie opens as Harvey (Treadway), battered and indifferent, sits through an interrogation with a detective (Timothy Spall) to recount why he attacked Stephen Roper (Neil Maskell), who is hospitalized in critical condition. Roper is the local drugpin, who runs a security cover business and is the person responsible for sending Harvey to jail for a year for a crime Harvey did not commit. The incarceration cost Harvey his future and almost all of his loved ones, save three loyal friends. Having figured a way to redeem his life while serving time, Harvey enlists his friends in a heist designed for Roper to endure a vengeance that can truly repair Harvey’s sense of balanced karma.
Where most heist movies focus on the plan behind the con, this one focuses on the motivation. And through the interrogation, Harvey reveals the truth about his life and his feelings about the world he inhabits. Guided by slim hope, his mission becomes a shared exit strategy among friends from their bleak fates.
Beautifully shot, written and directed by Athale, “Wasteland” is an enticing prelude to a newly launched career. Perhaps given Athale’s background running a creative agency, the movie offers the grit, depth and authenticity that is one pace with global youth culture in the package of a fine work that anyone can appreciate.
This film is a must see and one of the best options in the theater this weekend.