On October 4, 1997 in Charlotte, North Carolina, a regional office vault of Loomis, Fargo & Co. was robbed by vault supervisor David Scott Ghantt, his girlfriend Kelly Campbell (who formerly worked for Loomis), Steve and Michelle Chambers, and four other conspirators. Eventually, 8 people were arrested by the FBI, and 95% of the 17.3 million dollars was recovered. It was the second-largest cash robbery on U.S. soil at the time.
In this movie version of the story – which sticks fairly close to the true events, we meet the sheepish and - let's go with naive ? - David Ghantt while he is about to marry his fiancée Jandice, but is pining for his co-worker Kelly. After Kelly quits, David is pleasantly surprised when she contacts him. Because of his feelings for her, he goes along with a scheme she and her high-school friend, Steve Chambers, pitch to him – agreeing to rob the Loomis Fargo vault by throwing all the money into a van, then heading south to Mexico. Originally, Steve tells him that he will send David small amounts of money to keep him going down there until the ‘heat dies down’ and he can come back. Kelly encourages David by telling him she’ll come down to Mexico to join him.
As David enjoys himself in Mexico, the Chambers’s spending gets out of hand, drawing the attention of the FBI, and Steve hires a hitman to go after David to ‘eliminate the loose end’. However, the hitman he hires is the same man whose identity he used for David as an alias – so the hitman assumes they have the same name/birthday upon finding David’s new ID on him – refusing to kill him. David heads back to the states to ‘rescue’ Kelly from the Chambers’s on the same day they are having a housewarming party for the new mansion they bought. David finds the feds and helps them get evidence on Steve. David serves his time, and comes out of prison a ‘changed man’, who apparently helps with film consulting. At least on this one.
This movie was originally shot in early 2015 for an August 2015, then shifted to October 2015 – but then Relativity Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the movie got slightly lost in the shuffle. It is just now coming out. And yes, it does stick mostly to true events, but as far as I can tell, the housewarming party was an added fiction for a dramatic finale setting – but yes, the feds caught up to Steve and Michelle Chambers because of excessive spending, and David did spend lots of money when he got to Mexico on luxury hotels, parasailing, and jet-skiing.
Directed by Jared Hess, who did Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, this movie is funny in parts, but overall a bit of a disappointment. I’m not sure if it’s because all the characters were just so painfully stupid, or if the comedy itself was a little flat, but the movie was just not as funny as I expected it to be based on the cast - which is pretty amazing.
- Zach Galifianakis plays David, and the photo of he and the real David together at the end is worth sticking around for. He plays him as a good person, but just not very bright. He allows himself to go along with the ridiculous plan because he genuinely cares for Kelly, even if the plan is terrible. Galifianakis is capable, and this is really up his alley. Someday he’s going to win an Oscar for a surprising drama role – mark my words.
- Kristen Wiig plays Kelly, and does an impressive job of making Kelly at first manipulative, but shifting her to being won over by David’s kindness and starting to reciprocate his feelings. Wiig is dependable, and performs what she is given pretty well.
- Owen Wilson plays Steve Chambers, and he comes off as a bit of a menacing bully when first putting the plan together, but then his green and stupidity take control as he starts spending money on really insane things.
- Mary Elizabeth Ellis plays Michelle Chambers, and she actually stole the scenes she was in for me – funny, charming, and greedy – she is all about spending the haul on unbelievably extravagant items.
- Kate McKinnon plays David’s fiancé and then wife, Jandice. There’s not really enough of her in the movie – the scenes she’s in are awkwardly hilarious, and I did want more of her reaction once she’s told what David did.
- Jason Sudeikis plays hitman Mike McKinney, who is assigned to go after David, but can’t pull it off when he believes that David is also a Mike McKinney. He also picks David up at the end of the movie once he’s released from prison – I’m not sure why, probably because the movie needed more Sudeikis. I will say he seemed to be the one who was playing this as a pure camp comedy.
- Leslie Jones plays one of the FBI agents going after Ghantt and crew, and she’s frustratedly hilarious in the majority of her scenes. She basically plays herself, but she’s so funny that I honestly wanted a little more of her.
Overall, the movie had a lot of potential, but just didn’t quite work for me. I will say that it did feel like Jared Hess’s other movies in that the comedy is very awkward, as opposed to outright hilarious. Because the characters were so dumb, I almost wanted it to go a little further into slapstick, but I’m not sure that would have worked either. If you like Hess’s style, you may like this, and as I said – there are some funny bits here and there, it’s just not consistent all the way through.
5 out of 10 – Gained points for the random Ken Marino – lost points for not using him enough or correctly.