Coin Heist is a 2017 young adult crime caper about a group of prep school students who come together to pull off a heist in order to save their school.
There is no shortage of squeaky-clean teen films on television and on VOD, a collection of light conflicts that are generally designed to serve as a gateway from children’s stories to more adult-themed fare. Typically devoid of real emotional consequences, they are meant to be breezy stories that exaggerate tropes in order to pad the world view of that intended audience with larger-than-life stereotypes and perceptions. Lots of silly adults, minor conflicts that are seen as much larger than they are, characters painted with broad, and easily-identifiable strokes, these are just a few of the standards. With Coin Heist, a new Netflix original, there’s not much that strays from the formula, though the story is assuredly one that stretches credibility.
When a small group of utterly disinterested students go on a field trip to the United States Mint, they are shocked when police show up and arrest their principal, who is also the father of Jason (Alex Saxon), a slacker student watching. As the principal is dragged away, the tour resumes while the students barely listen in to the guide explaining how a mistake in the pressing process could make a coin valuable to collectors.
The principal had been embezzling money by the millions and now the school is in trouble. To counter the setback, the board cancels all clubs and activities, save for the yearbook and the football team. With the students in crisis, four of them come up with a plan. First, there is Jason, who is already kind of a pariah among the student body. He is joined by Dakota (Sasha Pieterse), the generic hot blonde girl, Alice (Alexis G. Zall), the nerdy but adorable computer hacker, and Benny (Jay Walker), the hyper-intelligent football player. Based on what they learned on the field trip, they decide to break into the Mint, steal a metal stamp for the new upcoming state quarter, alter the mold, go back and press coins and then try and fence them through auction houses to make a fortune. Now, can these very different teenagers from all kinds of backgrounds get along enough to beat the odds and save their school?
Directed by Emily Hagins, a young woman not much older than the characters in the movie, but already with five films under her belt, Coin Heist is generally a harmless little story based on the young adult novel by Elisa Ludwig. Made on a shoestring, the film will be familiar to fans of Disney kid’s movies and such, with easy to understand plotting and paper thin characters that travel along a well-worn path with few curves, but for what it wants to be, accomplishes just that. Homaging to a degree The Breakfast Club, Hagins isn’t looking to elevate the genre, but finds some moments that tap into the talents of these young actors, even if the script and budget ultimately weigh it down.
Saxon comes off best, a charismatic and engaging young presence that easily holds the most interest in the story, though both Zall and Walker are also well cast. Unfortunately, there isn’t much beyond these leads as the adults especially are painfully overdrawn and as such, wholly uninteresting. With all the grown-ups cast as incompetent and doltish, not to mention a little offensive, what might have been given a bit more depth ends up just short of potential.
Coin Heist is an easy watch, though for most, it won’t be much of a challenge. Predictable, it has a fun cast that will appeal and help in swallowing the decidedly far-fetched story. It has a nice twist with gender expectations as well and yet still feels lacking. Another solid effort from Hagins proves she has much promise, but it remains a generic experience.
Coin Heist (2017) Review
Movie description: The Coin Heist is a young adult crime caper about a group of prep school students who come together to pull off a heist in order save their school.
Director(s): Emily Hagins
Actor(s): Blanche Baker, Peter Benson, Mark Blum
Genre: Young Adult, Crime