The latest film to feature the artist formerly known as Batista is Heist, a gritty crime film where he gets fourth billing (on the poster, at least) behind Robert De Niro, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kate Bosworth.
The film, directed by Scott Mann, is a slick-looking crime thriller that is very much in keeping with the genre, both in terms of tone and content. The plot and characters are in the vein of how Boondock Saints and similar films imagine the world of organized crime to be, while the cinematography and framing are evocative of both Michael Mann and David Fincher (and, in later scenes, even a touch of Michael Bay). This is a slick-looking film with a couple of very fun and engaging action sequences that is otherwise almost slavishly by the book.
Luckily, the strong cast really elevates the film, which at times feels like it's going down the checklist of heist movie plot points it needs to get in. (Gina Carano, who plays a cop in the film, is actually told by her Captain that she's out of line and needs to turn in her badge and gun. No, really!)
In effect, Dave Bautista is the third lead in the film as Cox, a guard at a riverboat casino who gets the bright idea to rip off casino owner/crime lord Francis "The Pope" Silva, played by De Niro. To round out his crew, Cox enlists Vaughn, played by the always-fantastic Dean Morgan. Vaughn is a casino employee and former golden boy of Silva's, who is a good guy but desperately needs $300,000 to ensure that his daughter can continue to receive cancer treatments.
Dean Morgan, Morris Chesnut and a few others really give it their all in the film, but Bautista actually does a lot of heavy lifting. His portrayal of Cox as a suave heavy who becomes increasingly more unhinged and dangerous is impressive and shows off a range that keeps getting wider. Although Guardians of the Galaxy was definitely his breakout role, Heist might be the film that proves he's capable of a lot more than "strong henchman."
De Niro, while always solid, doesn't have much to work with. He's playing a role he's played dozens of times before (mob villain with a possible heart of gold), so he isn't really given a lot to work with. When he first shows up in the film, he delivers an evil monologue that sounds 100 percent like the monologue you would write for Robert De Niro if you got him to play the most evil guy of all time in your film. It's strange to say, but yes, Bautista gives a much finer performance than one of the greatest actors of all time in Heist.
Overall, Heist is a perfectly capable crime film that contains some fantastic performances. If you're interested to see what Bautista is capable of as an actor, or if you like heist movies, it's definitely worth your time.