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Wiig (left) and Galifianakis in Masterminds. The film doesn't lack comedic pedigree but suffers from the financial woes of its backing studio.

Rednecks run riot in dumbed-down biopic

Nov 4, 2016 5:50 AM

THE old expression "you can't make this stuff up" is a fitting description for Masterminds, a based-on-a-true-story comedy about trailer-trash rednecks who steal US$17 million from a cash-handling facility in North Carolina, then embark on a conspicuous spending spree torn from the pages of a how-to handbook for the nouveau riche.

They didn't call it the "Hillbilly Heist" for nothing. With a ready-made narrative featuring characters straight out of a Dumb and Dumber casting call, Masterminds had a real chance of being, as they say, a contender. Instead, it's a so-so comedy that belongs to the ranks of the also-rans.

Directed by Jared Hess and written by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivey and featuring an ensemble cast drawn from current and former Saturday Night Live alumni, the film doesn't lack comic pedigree. But it does suffer from the financial woes of backing studio Relativity Media, which delayed its release for over a year.

Zack Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, a dim-witted hick who drives armoured vehicles filled with cash for cash-handling firm Loomis Fargo. On one delivery run, fellow employee Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig) floats the idea of stealing a truckload of cash. Her old high-school friend Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) has devised a scheme that will enrich himself and his friends and he has plans for David as well - plans that don't involve sharing any loot with him.

Even though he's engaged, David has the hots for Kelly - possibly because his fiancee Jandice (Kate McKinnon at her deadpan best) is scary as anything. David is tasked with stealing cash from a vault, delivering the money to Steve and then hiding out in Mexico until the heat is off. Kelly implies that she will join him at a later date, so that's incentive enough for him. Even though he's the prime suspect, getting caught and going to prison - described to him by Steve as "a community college with a big fence around it, and snipers" - doesn't deter David.

Once the deed is done (not before a series of epic bungles), David dutifully heads to a Mexican resort and waits. And waits some more. Meanwhile, Steve's wife Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) can't wait to cash in on her newfound status, so she and Steve sign off on a mansion (decorated with an Elvis portrait, of course) and a BMW roadster.

Steve dispatches a wacko hitman (Jason Sudeikis) to take care of loose ends, while an FBI agent (Leslie Jones) is also on the hapless David's trail.

Masterminds is a sometimes funny (sometimes less so) study in bad hairstyles, toilet humour and astounding ineptitude among people who might be best described as core Donald Trump constituents.

Could these events (most of them, anyway) really have taken place? You better believe it.

Rating: C+