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‘Bus 657’ is a Solid Thriller Until the Twists Come

Though the script is awfully overwritten with macho clichés and the tropes of the honorable criminal, it manages to methodically ramp up the tension in the plot.

Bus 657 (now renamed in the US as Heist) tells the story of Luke Vaughn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who works on a riverboat casino owned by vicious gangster Pope (Robert de Niro). Vaughn's daughter has cancer, and he can't afford to pay for the necessary treatment. He asks Pope for help, but is rebuffed. That's when he agrees to help the unstable Cox (Dave Bautista) rob the casino. When things go south, he and his colleagues end up taking a whole bus hostage. Vaughn tries to keep the situation under control, trying to keep the police at bay while also working to keep Cox from just killing everyone on board.

The movie is certainly trying to be clever, but it doesn't really work. The whole thing is basically working towards one big twist that doesn't make any sense at all. A good heist film twist tends to reveal characters secretly more in control than previously thought. But the reversal in this movie reveals a plan that doesn't really seem like a plan at all. In the film, the characters at times speak the language of gamblers. But what happens in this movie relies on too many variables and contrivances to make it a sensible bet.

As a straightforward thriller, the movie kind of works. Though the script is awfully overwritten with macho clichés and the tropes of the honorable criminal, it manages to methodically ramp up the tension in the plot. For a good long while, the film is able to make that bus feel like a powder keg, with all manner of ignition points ready to go off. There are probably a few too many parts to this plot, but none of it is particularly clunky.

That is, until we get to the twists. Films like this are always on tenuous logical ground, anyway. So a lot can be forgiven on the way to the destination. But the destination itself has to be good. The big reveals have to work within the already skewed reasoning of the story. Bus 657 does not achieve that basic goal. Every time it makes a big revelation, the story makes a lot less sense. It reveals characters that aren't acting according to their best interests, doing things that undermine their own position. In trying to preserve these reversals, the characters end up looking like fools on the way there.

The production is solid enough to make that hurt much less, however. The visual quality is a little bit all over the place, but the movie does a fair job of capturing the action when it happens. And a ridiculously overqualified cast makes the clichés and the dumb reversals seem downright watchable. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is now consistently delivering these relaxed, thoroughly manly performances that are just disproportionately compelling. Robert de Niro isn't working at his best here, but it's still pretty good for what it is. Dave Bautista reveals real limitations here, but his physicality still makes for a good visual.


Bus 657 is not a good film, but it isn't entirely bad, either. In spite of the overstuffed plot and the silly reversals, the movie kind of holds together as this tinder box of tension. I'm not entirely sure it's worth a trip to the cinema, but it's the kind of thing that seems amazing when viewed through the much lower standards of afternoon cable TV watching. The context of the cinema tends to require one to be paying more attention, and under that scrutiny this film just doesn't work. But at home, on one of those lazy days, this movie might fit the bill.

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Bus 657
Action, Thriller
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