When it comes to making a movie, establishing the right tone and approach is extremely critical. You can get away with a nonsensical plot if the tone feels right and the story is told with enough confidence. The audience will remain on your side as long as they get a clear sense that you know what you’re doing. In this respect, “7 Minutes” is pretty peculiar. The plot makes perfect sense and, by the end, you understand the story pretty clearly. But, the movie ultimately winds up destroying itself by approaching its story and tone in a manner that feels completely wrongheaded and misguided.
“7 Minutes” opens with a robbery, usually the most intense part of any crime film, then continually cuts away from the action by using flashbacks to help us understand how these criminals ended up at this point. And in the process of utilizing these flashbacks, the movie sucks out any energy and intensity that might’ve been created during the heist sequence. The story just isn’t complex enough to necessitate an abundance of flashbacks. In fact, the plot is very simple: three guys owe money to a drug dealer so they rob a bank. That’s it. The non-linear storytelling method adds nothing but frustration for the viewer, which makes “7 Minutes” a complete chore to watch.
All of this is unfortunate as there are some interesting elements to “7 Minutes” that would otherwise be worth exploring. These three bank robbers live a very small town in Washington state, and from the beginning, we discover that the bank manager actually knows one of the criminals, despite them wearing masks. This could potentially add an interesting wrinkle to the story: how do you get away with committing a robbery when you live in a small town where everyone knows you? This movie should’ve played out with the same level of absurdity that can be found in “Dog Day Afternoon.” Instead, “7 Minutes” ends up feeling like a bad mix of both “Heat” and “Reservoir Dogs,” but without the wit or the memorable characters.
This is a movie that’s centered on three very stupid men and, for some reason, we’re supposed to take them seriously. Characters like Sam (Luke Mitchell), a former star high school quarterback whose career in football is cut short due to a critical injury. He apparently never had much going on for him aside from football as he primarily makes his living by dealing weed. Then there’s Owen, a friend of Sam’s who also happens to be a drug dealer. Owen (Zane Holtz) is just a bad seed through and through. In one flashback, we discover that he once spent some time in jail after getting caught stealing merchandise from a shopping mall. Overall, he really doesn’t seem like a guy you’d want to hang out with.
Then again Sam’s brother, Mike (Jason Ritter), isn’t much better. He demonstrates little affection for his wife and child, and in one scene, we catch him cheating on his wife with a girl he meets at a bar. So, no, these aren’t very likable characters, but they do have one noble goal: they each want to get out of their godforsaken small town as quickly as possible. But again, these guys aren’t bright. Together, what do they decide is the best way to achieve their goal? By selling ecstasy they acquired from a dangerous criminal, ecstasy they subsequently lose hours after they received it. Hence the need to commit a robbery in order to pay their dealer back.
These poor character decisions would work just fine if the film realized just how idiotic these guys are. Unfortunately, we don’t get a Coen Brothers-esque darkly ironic crime film. Instead, we get a movie that takes itself way too seriously and blatantly cops the style of other, better crime films without knowing how to use its influences effectively.
For instance, the non-linear storytelling method immediately brings to mind “Reservoir Dogs.” But here’s the big difference: Quentin Tarantino never shows the heist and each of the character flashbacks occur when they’re all standing around inside the empty warehouse waiting to make their next move. In the end, “Reservoir Dogs” was never about the heist, instead the focus was always on the characters and their relationships with each other. “7 Minutes,” on the other hand, is specifically about the heist, but it completely undermines this fact by using flashbacks in the middle of the robbery. Why would you break up the most important, climactic scene in your story?
Despite these obvious flaws, there are a lot of aspects to “7 Minutes” that could’ve worked if it was executed better. Director Jay Martin, along with his DP, do a solid job of capturing the small town boredom of Washington state. The movie also boasts a pretty interesting cast aside from the ones mentioned earlier. Kris Kristofferson has a small role as Owen’s father. Joel Murray, who played Fred Rumsen on “Mad Men,” is the bank manager. And there’s Brandon Hardesty who plays the cop who tracks down the robbers. Hardesty initially gained notoriety by posting a series of amusing videos on Youtube (like this one), and it’s actually heartwarming to see him get legitimate acting work. Also, if you’re a fan of Michael Mann’s “Heat,” you’ll probably recognize Tuckey, who’s played by Kevin Gage. Gage was a mean son of a bitch in “Heat,” and he’s just as menacing in “7 Minutes.” Gage’s character Tuckey is a friend of Owen’s father and he simply commands the screen whenever he appears. There’s a point at the end where he threatens to take over the entire movie and you almost want him to.
You know something is wrong when you start rooting for the most evil character in the movie, but that’s the effect you create when you have main characters that are written this poorly. “7 Minutes” wants to imitate the style of other crime films so badly, it does a complete disservice to every other aspect of the movie. Because, at the end of the day, this is a heist film. There comes a point where you just want the filmmakers to stop pussyfooting around and show the central action. If you’re going to cut away from the most intense part of the film, you better have an interesting story to tell. “7 Minutes” doesn’t, and as a result, you’ll walk away feeling empty-handed. [D+]