A lazy script, an absence of conviction and a lackluster execution make the debut feature from Columbia College alum Seth Savoy one of the lamest heist movies of recent memory. The story of a handful of Gen Z-ers who’ve had enough with elites hoarding all the wealth and decide to go after it themselves, Echo Boomers thinks it has an awful lot to say about late-stage capitalism. Instead, the ensemble drama mucks about with far too many gimmicks and crutches to be able to establish much of a perspective at all. From an exhausting voice-over narration that insists on telling us everything we should be shown (film is a visual medium, in case you’ve forgotten) to over-simplified plot points that are too gaping to be glossed over, Savoy’s first feature leaves much to be desired.
Co-written by Savoy, Jason Miller and Kevin Bernhardt, Echo Boomers is apparently loosely based on a true story (though which story, exactly, is hard to tell…); at the film’s outset, a writer (Lesley Ann Warren) visits Lance Zutterland (Patrick Schwarzenegger) in the clink, interviewing him by phone through the prison’s glass divider. Lance starts telling the interviewer all about how he got caught up with his cousin Jack (Gilles Geary) and a motley crew of bandits pulling off major art heists in the middle of the day, taking out all their pent-up angst and frustration on the marks’ well-appointed homes and priceless possessions. Fresh out of college and saddled with debt, Lance can’t find a job to save his life (or pay his rent, as it were), and on this point, the film gets it right. College degrees have long since lost their silver bullet status as a way to making a comfortable living, as wages stagnate and the cost of education skyrockets. It’s easy to understand how Lance might be tempted into a life of crime just to make ends meet.
Jack and his crew work for Mel (Michael Shannon, doing a lot of the heavy lifting here) and his shipping business; as we learn in that ever-present voice-over, every now and then Mel hijacks one of his own shipping containers, filling it up with valuable contraband and shipping it abroad to be sold for a mint. With the help of a crooked insurance broker, the team gets intel on which houses hold the most valuable artworks; they plan to use Lance and his art degree to help them know what to pilfer at each new stop. And here’s where the heists go off track for the audience, accustomed as we are to sharp plots from the likes of Ocean’s 11, Hustlers and so many more. If I lived in one of these mansions, valuable fine art dripping off the walls, I would have it secured to the gills. Cameras. Lasers. Bodymen. The works. Echo Boomers asks us to take the leap from “here’s how we find the houses” to “watch us ransack the houses,” completely depriving us of the key element: the actual heist!
This oversight could be forgiven if something in the rest of the narrative were half-way redeeming, but here again the amateur script fails in every way to create characters worth caring about or stakes anywhere near high enough to matter. We meet Jack’s crew in yet more voice-over, hearing about the broken families, past traumas and perceived slights that led them to their illegal careers while we watch them tear up mansions and destroy everything in their path. Again with the telling not showing! And the gimmicks just get worse from there; as if Savoy and his co-writers haven’t packed enough into the cliché-ridden plot, there’s something about lessons that become rules that become so belabored it’s nearly laughable by the final scenes.
Americans born since the mid-to-late 1980s have a lot to be frustrated about, to be sure. As they enter adulthood, the country has failed them in nearly ever metric possible, from wages to education to healthcare and more. Savoy and his collaborators are clearly trying to tap into this sense of disappointment, and sending characters down the path of taking those frustrations out on the people who are their perceived cause is understandable. Unfortunately, in its attempt to be insightful and deep about what exactly these generations are experiencing, the film is nothing more than a contrived, misguided attempt at self-importance. Savoy may yet have solid films under his belt (hell, white male directors have been hired for Marvel blockbusters for less), but his debut feature does little to hint at that.
Echo Boomers is now playing at Music Box Theatre. Please follow venue, state and CDC health and safety guidelines if attending indoor screenings.
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