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The Vault (2017) Review

Mix of horror and thriller in this unique heist movie.

The Vault is a 2017 horror/thriller about two estranged sisters who are forced to rob a bank in order to save their brother, though this is no ordinary bank.

Part of the fun of a heist movie is both the great lengths robbers go through in planning the job and the myriad problems they face in getting it done. It’s the foundation of nearly every movie in the genre and yet many find ways to keep it fresh, mostly because of strong characters or a good story. Dan Bush‘s The Vault certainly qualifies as a heist movie and does stick to several tropes in the circle, but also veers hard to the right, becoming a film less about the money and more about survival.

At the end of business one afternoon, as sirens wail outside a large bank, two women are the center of attention. One is Leah (Francesca Eastwood), a young woman talking with the manager about a job as a clerk and the other is Vee (Taryn Manning), an unhappy customer complaining about fees. Meanwhile, a small group of firefighters enter, seemingly to secure the building from a spreading fire, but they, and the women, who are sisters, are in fact thieves and quickly overrun the bank. However, when they end up with far less than they were hoping for, assistant manager Ed Mass (James Franco) reveals that there is another vault in the basement, an older model with a huge stash of cash. But it’s not just money buried in the shadows of this old bank and now that it’s out, they all have to try and get out alive.

The Vault
The Vault, 2017 © Redwire Pictures

Beginning with a surprisingly stressful opening, The Vault looks to play out in standard fashion though it puts the women in charge, even as they bicker about what to do. This tension shifts though once Ed steers them toward the basement, he having some rather dark flashbacks that seem to hint at something very bad. As the robbers work to get the massive door open, the camera returns to Ed’s troubled face often, seemingly knowing something very bad is behind that door. He’s not wrong. The movie quits being about the heist and instead slips into straight up horror as something in the dark starts claiming victims. It’s an interesting mix though neither side of the coin plays out quite as well at it could, even if there’s some fun to be had in it all.

On one hand, it’s kind of disappointing that the heist side is abandoned as the premise for it and the initial setup are the strongest thing going in the film. It’s genuinely smart and feels like it could lead to an interesting standoff, even setting up a detective (Clifton Collins Jr.) who starts out in the bank. On the other hand, the setting is prime for a unique horror story and Bush does better in the second half with this part, plying the players against each other as the terror in the basement draws nearer. 

The Vault doesn’t play by all the rules, which sometimes works to its advantage, but there is also a lull in the middle that weakens the momentum despite its ambition. Franco is appropriately dark even though he rarely speaks and both Eastwood and Manning are strong, helping to keep things on the right rails. A pretty solid psychological thriller, The Vault is never as scary or graphic as it should be and not as action-heavy as it seems to demand but is nonetheless an entertaining watch, especially for fans of some low-gore horror.

The Vault (2017) Review

Movie description: The Vault is a 2017 horror/thriller about two estranged sisters who are forced to rob a bank in order to save their brother, though this is no ordinary bank.

Director(s): Dan Bush

Actor(s): James Franco, Taryn Manning, Francesca Eastwood

Genre: Thriller, Horror

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