‘Bus 657’: A simulated, formulaic journey (IANS Review, Rating: **)

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Film: “Bus 657”; Director: Scott Mann; Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Morris Chestnut, Dave Bautista, Stephen Cyrus Sepher, Gina Carano, Kate Bosworth and Paul Mark Gosselaar; Rating: **

While “Bus 657” is touted to be a heist film, but in actuality, it is a story of parental anguish. Yet, it is neither a family drama nor a suspense thriller. It is a tackily simulated, formulaic film, consisting of a generic cat-and-mouse chase involving the police, some henchmen and a runaway bus.

The tale revolves around a card dealer Vaughn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his boss-cum-friend Mr. Pope – the owner of a riverboat casino, who operates the casino with an iron-hand.

When Vaughn’s little daughter is terminally sick and he is unable to pay the mounting medical bills of three hundred thousand dollars, he approaches Pope for a loan. But instead of helping him, Pope rebuffs him in a rude and uncharacteristic manner with, “relations come and go, but principles are here to stay”.

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Hurt and in a desperate need to raise the money, Vaughn is sweet-talked into theft by Cox (Dave Bautista), a disgruntled security guard who knows how Mr. Pope is using the casino as a money laundering service for organised crime.

Hastily assembling a team and a plan, the men steal $3 million from the casino, but when the heist goes wrong, the gang ends up on a local bus with innocent passengers in it and the police chasing them. How they try to remain one step ahead of the police and escape, forms the crux of the tale.

Writers Stephen Cyrus Sepher and Max Adams’s plot is wildly absurd with frivolous assemblage of characters that work to elevate itself through the emotional texture like; Vaughn motivated by his ailing daughter and Cox fiercely protective of a dying friend, who’s bleeding on the floor of the bus after taking a bullet during the getaway.

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The narration feels like a sentimental parody of great gangster films and a slower-paced variation of the crime thriller “Speed”. The inciting moments feel like an afterthought used to contort the film’s universe for an effective telling.

The dialogues too are cheesy and least amusing, especially; “love is built on sacrifices and not on dollars”, “Plan B – run for your lives”, “Whoever said money can’t buy love clearly didn’t have enough,” and “I always thought there was nothing sexier than a woman who fought back”.

Although De Niro provides the marquee value, he fails to deliver. Being a dynamic actor, he does not provide any depth to his character. He is just seen slumming around in a stereotypical manner. And he is outshone by the rest of the cast which includes the smallest of the characters.

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Jeffrey Dean Morgan with his typical world-weary charisma and sporting the extreme facial stubble, is the star of the show. Playing the round character Vaughn, he proves himself to be the voice of sanity, placating the passengers even the one who attacks him with a knife and trying to keep the hot-headed Cox under control before violence breaks out.

The rest of the cast includes Gina Carano as police officer Kris Bajos, Kate Bosworth as Pope’s estranged daughter, Morris Chestnut as Dog — Pope’s lackey, and Mark-Paul Gosselar as the corrupt detective.

With moderate production values, the action sequences are perfunctory, staid and uneventful. And, overall the film is neither moving nor exciting.

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