Any project requires clear planning, execution, and monitoring of outcomes. Heists are no different in needing this kind of effective strategic thinking. Lift follows an international thief Cyrus (Kevin Hart) leading his team of experts to pull off the ultimate job. Along with his Interpol Agent love interest Abby (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), they team up to steal $500 million in gold being transported on an A380 passenger flight. Hard cash is typically the popular goal for most heists. Commodities such as artworks, diamonds, and gold are for the audacious, especially stolen from mid-air. But with a multimillion-dollar budget for the film, why not push the envelope? The film’s execution is atypical for its genre- an action-packed heist. The European experience infused in the film is somewhat an ode to the classic Italian Job- also a gold thief heist film directed by F. Gary Gray. Striped shirt men gently commanding Gondolas, gulls crying faintly and reddish-orange-clay-tiled roofs in Venice stunningly open up the film.
It all however went nose diving from the first scene when Cyrus walked into the auction house. The “thank you” as a response to being welcomed was suspiciously unnatural as if offended by the usher. “It’s good to be back” being the stern establishment of his presence but was not maintained throughout the film. Lift is Hart’s first leading man role as a serious character. Low shoulders, straight face, somber mood and hands in pockets were the attempts of seriousness to this world renewed thief. I just failed to take Hart’s serious role seriously. The tilting of the head when focusing when someone speaks was peculiar. The deflated body language as if under duress didn’t entirely showcase what he was trying to achieve with the character. The streaks of this straight-faced acting shone in 2021’s True Story alongside Wesley Snipes. In this thriller series, Hart plays Kid- a comedian and rising screen actor with a commendable range. He shows real agony from his brother's criminal antics, chairs are thrown and Kid even strangles someone to death. If only this dramatic flair filtered into this recent offering. The lack of background and motivation informing his master thief curbs rooting for the character. Abby’s reasons for her occupation- an agent in the Interpol’s Arts Division- are laid out by citing childhood events. Hart’s character was however not given the same courtesy. Apart from swimming in a mega penthouse pool, how does he suddenly know how to fight and overall stay in shape? How did the team meet to develop such trust and loyalty towards this deflated leader? Viewers are left hanging on what informs his somber yet revered character. Even Sam Worthington’s character Huxley- Abby’s boss at Interpol- was unnecessarily harsh. There is minimum comic relief from Hart as expected in action comedy roles in Ride Along for instance. This task was left to Magnus- the safecracker- played by Billy Magnussen- to crack a smile to a disappointed audience. The rest of Cyrus’s team of thieves are- the master of disguises Denton (Vincent D’Onofrio); the pilot Camila (Ursual Corbero; hacker Mi-Sun (Yun Jee Kim) and engineer Luke (Viveik Kalra).
Expectations and evolution
Lift offers lessons on art theft through the manipulation of artwork’s value to influence buyers' perceptions, a manipulation of aviation systems, and the greedy coldhearted folks who can cause natural catastrophes for the sake of money and power. A further lesson is on expectation management. The film’s marketing campaign at the tail end of last year was bright and clear. In interviews, Hart always emphasized the seriousness of his character as a leading man. With all the uproar and disappointment, nothing takes away from Kevin Hart’s work ethic and ambition. Early mornings and going to sleep after midnight are his daily grind. His motivation as a producer and actor to tackle a project of this magnitude speaks to his evolution. Lift stands as next-level- smart decisions for his career. A testament to how at times one needs to run their race, instead of playing into audience expectations. A hard lesson dished out by Andre 3000 to his Hip Hop followers last year. Hart’s desire to not be boxed, but always propel to higher heights in his career as a creative- comedian, actor, businessman, and family man is admirable. At 44 years old the trajectory of his career naturally should evolve into other genres and styles. As we get older do we not aspire for more? The fourth floor demands maturity and sustainability especially when you have four children.
Failed lift off
Despite the temptations to organize protests and partitions to fetch Hart’s tuition fees from acting school, Lift ticks all the boxes of a heist film. There is a great team of specialists, intelligence gathering, and precision in execution to score big. With its global IP (intellectual property), timely topics such as the impacts of new technologies in traditional art and cyber terrorism influencing climate change will be relevant to global audiences. The film ends with Marcus Mayfield’s “Moving on Up”, an idea that doesn’t fully reflect what the film tried to achieve. It rather crushes and burns due to its star actor’s underdeveloped character. For the high-budget marketing to hype up the film, the main character fails to lift spirits. The only thing lifting is the remote to either fast forward or flip to another platform to replay Kat William’s rantings.