The past decade has not been lacking in cinematic heists. On the big screen, films like Logan Lucky, American Animals, Widows and The Thieves deliver wildly disparate capers, while the crews of “Money Heist” and “Lupin” offer intricately planned schemes on the small screen. Director Jaume Balagueró aims to add another slick pulse-pounding caper to the canon with his Spanish heist flick The Vault but only manages a boilerplate theft of two hours of your time.

Audiences familiar with REC or Sleep Tight know Balagueró is no stranger to claustrophobic ticking-clock suspense, which makes The Vault’s lack of such quite disappointing. A promising setup adds extra sting to the film’s exceedingly conventional execution. Liam Cunningham fills the shoes of professional thief Walter, on the trail of Sir Francis Drake’s lost treasure. When that bounty is locked within an impenetrable Bank of Spain vault, the film proposes a complex problem for its thief to solve. A few clever obstacles invite promise: a historical vault so old and secret that its layout is unknown and an analog drowning pit that seems impossible to overcome. To counter those deterrents, Walter enlists Freddie Highmore’s Thom, an engineering student phenom; the thrill of the challenge is too much of an incentive to ignore.

That trait is also his entire character, and Highmore’s flat performance provides little else for the audience to root for. The same could be said for the rest of The Vault’s derivative characters. Everyone is a blank slate beyond their single quirks: Cunningham’s grizzled mission architect, the confident hacker (Axel Stein), the sly pickpocket (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), the headstrong field leader (Sam Riley). Occasionally, Famke Janssen slides into frame as a British intelligence officer with a questionable accent. The void of charisma or interesting personalities completely deadens the film’s attempt at Ocean’s Eleven-style banter and dynamics. The inclusion of Jose Coronado’s bank security chief is equally lifeless as an antagonist.

Without engaging characters, a charming team bond or an effective foe, then one hopes that the job itself can salvage what remains. Unfortunately, The Vault’s caper is imbued with only marginally more life than its characters. The mechanics of the heist is pure formula, heavier on clunky exposition than on mission logistics. Every moment here is one you’ve either seen before or seen done better, leaving only numbing familiarity. For all its focus on planning, close calls and occasional double-crosses, the whole endeavor makes one wonder if this team is just winging their scheme, rather than enacting a master plan. Working against the ticking clock that is 2010’s World Cup finals only amounts to the sporadic score-count reminder, denuding the film’s time-sensitive tension. A few sparks of suspense arise from defeating the vault’s watery booby trap, but those fleeting moments offer no salvation for a film already drowning in cliché.

Balagueró‘s caper has the bones of a solid thriller, but never achieves more than thin convention, never transplanting his horror-film tension to his crime intrigue. Despite The Vault’s promising cast and premise, these two hours only serve to stretch out its seen-a-thousand-times blandness.

Virtually every moment in this heist film is one you’ve either seen before or seen done better, leaving only numbing familiarity.
30 %
Bland and Unoriginal

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