Ten minutes into 10 Minutes Gone director Brian A. Miller’s love for Michael Mann’s gangster classic Heat becomes obvious. Once you realize that you begin to wonder why you’re not watching that movie instead of this dull, uninspired flick written by Kelvin Mao and Jeff Jingle that only exists so that Bruce Willis works enough to qualify for his SAG benefits. There’s a heist, a double-cross and 88 minutes that take longer than Heat’s 170 minute runtime.

This kind of D-level movie has existed since independent studios made cheap content for double features. Film noir pretty much exists because movies with limited resources threw most of their budgets at fading stars known for tough guy roles. Those films get dissected in film schools for their uses of light and shadow to set moods while hiding the cheapness of the productions. Digital cameras bring a similar production value in terms of keeping costs down, but this wasteland of crime films, thriller and action films populated by stars of the ’80s and ’90s spend none of that savings on the script. With a good script, cinema magic can happen.

Using Heat as an example, an aspect of the story that propels that movie is the anticipation of the big acting showdown between Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. Along with Willis, Michael Chiklis has signed on to 10 Minutes Gone, allowing for the possibility of some heavyweight, dueling machismo. Willis’ stardom and place in film history is undeniable. While he may not possess the gravitas of Pacino or DeNiro, he is a presence who carries a film when engaged with the material. Chiklis created one of the great villains of television when he played Vic Mackey on The Shield, so this movie should be designed around a climax that pits these two men against each other. We know what we’re getting into when we click on this movie, the least the movie could give us is a clash of these lesser titans. Of course, it is not to be.

It’s really Chiklis’ movie. He plays Frank Sullivan, an expert safecracker who thought he was out but gets pulled back in by his chump brother, Joe (Tyler Jon Olson). Joe’s been pinched in the past and stinks of loser, but Frank gets Willis’ Rex to hire them on for an easy bank job, the ten minutes gone of the title. Despite planning the whole operation down to the multiple escape routes, the alarm still goes off before it’s supposed to and the cops are waiting outside. Toward the end of the Heat homage, Frank gets coldcocked, Joe gets shot to death and the package they stole from the bank gets heisted.

Willis spends most of his time standing in an unfinished office suite, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows and barking orders on a cellphone. You can practically hear him yawning between takes. Chiklis is on the move, trying to solve the mystery of the double-cross by tracking down his crew with Joe’s girlfriend, Claire (Meadow Williams). He strikes a few Mackey poses with a firearm and generally respects his employers and fans enough to invest in the material. A job’s a job and Chiklis is doing his, which makes him stand out among his fellow cast members.

Glimpsing at his credits, Brian A. Miller has spent the last decade filling content holes with vehicles for aging stars, with Willis being his most regular collaborator. This would be intriguing if his films were good, but the notion of being inventive on a shoestring budget isn’t evident here. 10 Minutes Gone isn’t much of a movie, but its tediousness has the power to bend the space-time continuum. If you have a desire to watch its stars in action, watch one of their greatest hits instead of this effort.

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