After parodying his attempts to become an action-movie star in the Quibi/Roku short film series Die Hart (later compiled into a Amazon Prime feature), Kevin Hart goes for the gold in the genre and attempts to do the real thing in Lift, an absurdly ridiculous, over the top but still entertaining heist movie that strains credibility at every turn — but who cares because it’s got Hart.
The latest bloated Netflix star-driven action epic on the scale of Red Notice and The Gray Man, this one has our star as master art thief Cyrus Whitaker, whom we meet with his team trying to pull off one of their signature thefts at a Venice Italy auction house involving an NFT (just to keep this as contemporary as they come), leading to a wild boat chase all over the colorful canals but not ending well for the gang.
But just when you think they are down, a bigger job comes their way in the form of an enlistment by Interpol agent Abby Gladwell (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who previously has had her own trying experiences with Cyrus in Paris and isn’t in the mood for more. But her boss, Dennis Huxley (Sam Worthington), insists that a get-out-of-jail card is worth the price to get them to retrieve $500 million in gold bars being used as terrorist payoffs by evil investment banker Lars Jorgensen (Jean Reno), who has big and dangerous plans. She reluctantly agrees, so does Cyrus, and the cat-and-mouse game begins.
The crux of the job is that Cyrus and his team must pull off this heist 40,000 feet in the air in a plane where the gold is being safely transferred in an unpentreable vault. Key to the plan is to have Camilla (Úrsula Corberó), Cyrus’ wheelwoman, pilot another private plane under this one and link to it electronically, enabling the transfer after a lot of other hijinks aboard. That is just the beginning of the ambitious job that gets more ludicrous, and actually fun as it goes along, even if the end, and the actual end, are all too predictable.
Firmly in the well-worn heist genre to the point that one of its producers, Simon Kinberg, has made it with his company called Kinberg Genre Films, it will be no surprise Lift borrows liberally from just about every other movie of its type, old and new. Setting it on a global scale is a Netflix trope, but who will complain about locations like Venice, London, Belfast, Cortina and the Alps? The Cyrus team is also appealing led by a game Hart, who acquits himself nicely in new territory, and in addition to Corberó includes veteran Vincent D’Onofrio as the disguise guy, Billy Magnussen as the safecracker, Viveik Katra as the engineer and Yun Jee Kim as the electronics expert. Maybe they aren’t as starry as your average Oceans flick, but they ratchet up the international appeal which is what Netflix is all about in bankrolling pricey pictures like this. Reno is always reliable even as he plays the baddie on one note here. Worthington also is fairly one dimensional in the straight-up boss role we have seen a million times.
F. Gary Gray, whose films include big-scale items like Fate of the Furious, the remake of The Italian Job, and a more low-budget bank robber indie Set It Off, is clearly comfortable with all that a picture of this scope requires. The endless end-credit roll, which Netflix cuts off unless you act fast, is proof that it takes a village to make something like this lift off.
Producers in addition to Kinberg and partner Audrey Chon are Hart, Bryan Smiley, Matt Reeves and Adam Kassan.
Release date: January 12, 2024 (streaming)
Director: F. Gary Gray
Screenplay: Daniel Kunka
Cast: Kevin Hart, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Vincent D’Onofrio, Billy Magnussen, Ursula Corbera, Viveik Katra, Yun Jee Kim, Jacob Batalon, Jean Reno, Sam Worthington
Running time: 1 hr 44 min