It was with great anticipation last night that we attended the first ever screening for family & friends^, Farce Miller Enterprises latest comedy, El Heist Grande.
The film opens with a hush. The tension is immediately built with three men sitting around a table. Their faces grim. Two have guns which are pointing at each other’s head. The low synth music builds dread and expectation.
We jump to the jaunty opening credits which is playing the cheeky sax El Heist Grande theme and animated sequence of the main players. Without diluting the tension, this has everyone engaged from the first moment and signals to the audience that they are about to be entertained by this story.
Set in the quiet, eastern Melbourne suburb of Nunawading, friends Alec (David Farr) and Andrew (Darrell Hawkins) are in desperate need of some fast money. This leads them to the shadowy office of Stan Man (Onkar Kale) who offers the pair $10,000 if they steal some very rare Moga-Komo quiche.
Alec becomes The Heistmaster and Andrew, somewhat reluctantly, The Chief of Staff. Together they pull together an unlikely band of specialised skill sets : Daniel (Daniel Mu) as The Guy Who Turns Lights On & Off; Samson (Matthew Laing) as the Master of Communications; Charlotte (Grace Chandler) as The Injury Feigner; Jason (Richard Farr) as The Intimidating Cricketer; and Ivy (Zoe Dale) as The Personal Assistant.
The planning and execution of the heist do not go off without a hitch but each of course bring their unique gift to the operation before the final showdown with Stan Man.
My favourite extended sequence was the introduction of each of The Heist Squad. The gags were thick on the ground as each demonstrated their unique skills allowing us to identify with each protagonist without them overstaying their welcome. A special note of introduction to The Lockpick (baby Genevieve Farr) who did everything asked of her despite her application not being successful for The Squad.
Darrell Hawkins as the disbelieving Andrew was the perfect foil to the naively enthusiastic Alec, David Farr. Hawkins ‘serious’ face expressions (and hilarious double takes) allowed the guileless Farr to hurtle the story to its inevitable conclusion without getting bogged down in actual or real life concerns of how one would actually plan a crime. The dynamic between these two real life friends gives the film its heart with the rest of the action hanging of this pair.
Hawkins, who also wrote the script and directed, must take great credit here for allowing the story to neatly fit together and reveal its humour. Unlike many American comedies which must make obvious references in a bid to make you laugh, El Heist Grande has a British sensibility in allowing you, the viewer, to uncover the joke for yourself. Daniel Mu’s deadpan responses and Farr’s white jumper obsession are two running gags that serve the story well.
I felt the film’s pacing could have been helped by a tighter sequence in Stan Man’s office. The story was at risk of grinding to a halt while the film’s set up was being explained however this was more than put right when The Squad was introduced.
Special mention also to the music that underpins the film. The choice of each musical number was effective at creating the right mood nor did it ever cut across dialogue. Lachlan Barclay (who also played the role of Special Detective Lionel Nielsen) is credited as Sound Mixer as well as contributing the main theme. There are also musical numbers by Hawkins, Laing, Mu and metal band Toehider.
^ Getaway driver Rebecca Farr allowed your humble correspondant to have a small role as her banana eating father. This movie review therefore is entirely without an objective bias. It was a great thrill to be involved.
IMDB.com listing here.