Not all heist films are created equal. The Hard Easy is a poor man’s Ocean’s Whatever. Number. While that might appear more often than not a knock on the film, that would not be so in this case. Actually I rather liked the film, more for its nuances. The first thing that impressed me was the cast. This isn’t the gaggle of A listers found in the Ocean films. These are still some hard working craftsmen. Just because this isn’t as hyped or financed to the hilt doesn’t take anything away from the performances. It might…have made them work even harder.
Paul (Thomas) and Roger (Boreanaz) both have some serious money problems. Paul owes a huge gambling debt to vicious mobster Freddie (Allen). Roger is caught up in a stock scam about to explode in his face. The only way out, or so it appears, is an easy score. Seems there’s this can’t miss opportunity waiting for the right crew to come and make a good $15 million. Circumstances pull both of these misguided lads into the job. The problem is, of course, they don’t know each other. Both are working with separate crews planning the same job. So this easy score gets very hard; hence the title. When both crews show for the same diamond heist, all hell’s gonna break loose. What this film lacks in action it more than makes up for in characters. Peter Weller has some of the best lines in his over the top portrayal of Ed who leads Roger’s crew for the heist. The cigar crunching ex commando is such a stock character that it’s actually pretty funny to observe. An aging Bruce Dern puts in an almost equally rousing turn as Gene, the leader of Paul’s gang. Where most films concentrate on pulling off the job, this film mines the characters themselves for most of the running time. While it might not be gold they’re mining, it still comes up silver. Rae Allen might have the best role in the very short appearance of female mobster Freddie. I don’t know about you, but I’ll never look at a wrench quite the same way again. Her facial stuff is priceless. Gary Busey plays Vinnie, a counselo of sorts for Paul, who might just be setting him up for a fall. Vera Farmiga has the most unlikely role as Dr. Charlie. Why do all of the women in this film have guy names?
When The Hard Easy is at its best it’s a multi-level character study with plenty of characters to study. Unfortunately the film at times tries too hard to be stylish. Graphics are used to announce each of the main characters as well as day and time information. It’s not like seconds ticking by really matters in this film. This is an obvious attempt to build tension where there isn’t any. The film won’t appeal to most action junkies. Yes, there is a supercharged action climax but very little in between. Still, if you have the patience, you’ll actually enjoy the short little plays being paraded before you. There’s almost a Woody Allen flair that actually out-Woodys Woody. The film borders on black comedy, and that’s where it is should have been aiming all along.
The Hard Easy is presented in what I assume to be its original intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is a very fair presentation. There was an attempt to use color manipulation to show the difference between the two gangs. Most of the time it’s virtually unnoticed, but sometimes it’s a bit much. In particular, some of the sepia heavy stuff for Paul’s gang softens the image too much. Black levels and contrast are all average. I didn’t find any real compression or print artifact. The picture will neither dazzle you or distract you from the film.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is another example of mediocrity. Most of the film is very dialogue strong, and this is reproduced faithfully. Because of this surrounds don’t really excite with the notable exception of the climactic shootout. Bullets will fly all over your theatre, coming from every direction.
There is a commentary track with director Ari Ryan and producer Scott Gold. These guys are hyper and talk a lot and very fast. Most of it is the usual “that was so cool” dance, but they do have some infectious fun with the film.
“A Conversation With Ari Ryan” It’s amazing how much Ryan can say in a little over 7 minutes. This guy talks a mile a minute and never seems to need to stop for air. Most of this is covered in the commentary, but if you don’t want to listen to the whole thing you’ll get the condensed story here.
The Hard Easy isn’t loaded with a lot of extras. It doesn’t have a lot of glitz to show for itself. Still, this is a pretty entertaining film, better than it appears. The climax is too stylish as we get pulled back and forth in the timeline, but actually the film is pretty good before all the fuss starts. So even without the loaded options, I liked this stripped down version of a heist film. Everyone obviously worked hard, and it seems they had a blast. So ask yourself, what does a guy need to enjoy a good heist film? “He needs a robbery with witnesses, with guns, with cops.”
Special Features List
- Commentary by: director Ari Ryan and producer Scott Gold
- Behind-the-scenes interview with the director