Lift (dir. F. Gary Gray)

By: Adam Freed

Netflix needs to be stopped before someone gets hurt.  There are reputations and careers on the line and yet the streaming behemoth wields its checkbook with a wanton disregard for the humanity of artistic decency. Their latest assault is a Kevin Hart vehicle, Lift, which feels the blood relative to prior heist abomination Red Notice (2021).   F. Gary Gray helms the globetrotting CG extravaganza that despite its delectable pace, feels like a game of make believe. With the cost of digital effects devouring film budgets, it is curious that Lift goes to great lengths to insert itself in such recognizable cities, yet clearly is performed primarily before a green screen. With the exception of a compelling opening scene in Venice, Gray’s film feels it would’ve been much better served limiting the location count to those that could have been captured practically without the disservice of digital recreation.  Kevin Hart’s ensemble heist caper reduces itself to a style above substance approach as it watches much like a dense cupcake eats, while initially enticing and inviting, midway through the sprinkle laden endeavor, sugar overload forces the body to reject what began as harmless vice.

Lift attempts to preserve itself by presenting a cavalcade of recognizable character actors who work exceedingly hard to establish some semblance of respectability to this off-kilter caper.  No actor accomplishes more with less than Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket) who as the “master of disguise” (often D’Onofrio in a beanie) fills the screen at every underwritten opportunity.  Juxtaposed to D’Onofrio’s something from nothing performance, is Sam Worthington (Avatar), who despite previous successes, does nothing to elevate the film’s irredeemable script.  Lift reveals its storytelling struggles early as it leans into exposition based character background and plot detail in lieu of providing audiences any joy of discovery.  The risk of this drive thru window of storytelling is that it renders Lift, like Kevin Hart’s oft repeated on screen persona, a liability that is void of any real meaning.  

Working against F. Gary Gray’s film is that it desires to reside in a subgenre that has a plethora of previously minted memorable titles. When weighed against successful heist films, Lift clearly lacks the sophistication of Michael Mann’s Heat (1995) or the meticulous detail of Thief (1981).   Lesser appreciated heist films rooted themselves into the annals of film history through use of an unfamiliar angle, such as the steamy sensuality of The Thomas Crown Affair (1999).  Sadly, Lift in its attempt to become a jack of all trades, ends up as a master of none.  Overproduced and edited, under written and performed, with Lift, Netflix has burdened its millions of loyal subscribers with a film that never elevates above eye level.

Target Score: 3/10 - Kevin Hart’s Lift is a heist film punctured with holes in logic, offering fewer explanations than contrivances. The stakes of the plot are never clearly defined which deprives audiences of any opportunity to invest in the film beyond appreciating the shiny objects glittering in the moment.  Netflix needs to be held to a higher standard.