Oftentimes the most absurd story turns out to be completely true. A series of circumstances comprised of a comedy of errors; or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You will find these stories reenacted in television shows and movies because they are great stories to adapt. To avoid the risk of a lawsuit, you make sure to change the locations and the names of the characters. Of course the participants involved may give permission to use their names anyway, in the hopes of obtaining some small, monetary compensation. The things people do for money.
In Masterminds, directed by Jared Hess, David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) is an armored truck driver in North Carolina who makes deliveries to banks and fills ATM machines. His partner Kelly (Kristen Wiig) loses her job from the company and, after some convincing from her friend Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson), persuades David to rob his employer’s vault after hours, which is comprised of money from several banks. Robbing this company is akin to robbing a bank and that makes this a federal crime. Steve never reveals his identity to David and manages to obtain most of the money David has stolen, but gives David enough cash to flee the country to Mexico. While everybody attempts to lie low, the F.B.I. is already making the connection between the robbery and Ghantt’s involvement. Even though Steve hasn’t been implicated, his fear of David’s capture causes him to hire a hitman (Jason Sudeikis) to take David out.
This film is ridiculous and silly throughout, but somehow it works for me. The stupid decisions these characters make are just barely believable to where you can see how they’d put themselves in this situation. The robbery itself is never planned properly and leaves too much to chance, but yet they pull it off. I particularly enjoyed the costume changes that David goes through in order to conceal his identity. I’ve witnessed many films try to execute random visual sight gags, pop culture references, and physical comedy with little success. Masterminds does a decent job with all three and I give most of that credit to Zach Galifianakis.
While I was entertained by the performances of Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, and Jason Sudeikis, the movie does struggle from a weak script and puts an added burden on the actors to carry the movie forward. It helps that everybody is up to the task. I would say all the characters felt real enough to ground the story, with the exception of Kate McKinnon. Her character seemed otherworldly and added a whole new level of comedy to the movie. Leslie Jones also appears in the film, but her character doesn’t make that strong of an impression.
Another problem I would say with this film is the true story element. While several of the plot points were ripped directly from the crime that took place, the comedic flourishes seemed unnecessary. I suppose if you removed them, it would have made this comedy more of a funny drama, like something directed by the Coen Brothers. Instead the movie leans more Three Stooges or Buster Keaton with the heist and the police pursuit. I will say though that the sheer stupidity of the criminals, and their confidence in their abilities, makes this a more worthy sequel to Dumb & Dumber than the actual one.
Masterminds is not an award-winning comedy and suffers from plot holes and narrative issues, but the actors elevate the scenes for me and bring out the entertaining elements. I found myself laughing in places I normally wouldn’t in any other circumstance. Kristen Wiig is a terrific actress and never disappoints. She is one of my favorite comedians and her brand of humor compliments this movie’s already over-the-top absurdity. Zach Galifianakis brings something special to this film that I don’t think anyone else can emulate. Jason Sudeikis is another brilliant comedian who knows how to handle the comedic beats of a scene. I can only imagine what kind of security protocols were enacted after this robbery. One would think that no company would leave millions of dollars unguarded for days. Even if they did, they certainly wouldn’t make it accessible to a driver without authorization, but this is all in hindsight. If only our characters had more foresight instead, they might have avoided an embarrassing chapter in their lives. A chapter that is now immortalized on the big screen by some of the world’s funniest people.
Synopsis: A night guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes one of the biggest bank heists in American history.
Director: Jared Hess
Writers: Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, Emily Spivey
Stars: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Owen Wilson, Leslie Jones, Jason Sudeikis, Jon Daly
Runtime: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes