Capsule Review: Lift (2024) – A Decent, Entertaining Caper

Casting Kevin Hart in a big-budget caper comedy devoid of his usual motormouth delivery in favour of a cool-mannered leading man seems like a huge but interesting risk. And yet, it was a refreshing change of pace to see Hart try to play it straight while retaining some of his comedic charm, albeit in a restrained manner. The good news is, he does a decent job playing the charismatic leader of a five-person crew of con artists including pilot Camila (Úrsula Corberó), hacker Mi-Sun (Kim Yun-Jee), safecracker Magnus (Billy Magnussen), engineer Luke (Viveik Kalra) and master of disguise Denton (Vincent D’Onofrio).

The bad news? Hart’s predominantly straightforward lead turn as Cyrus can be awkward at times. This is especially true when he tries to act all suave and romantic in front of Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Abby, an Interpol agent as they used to share a romantic past.

At the beginning of Lift, the movie opens with an elaborate Venice heist revolving around stealing NFT. Cue the obligatory chase between the con artists and the law enforcers led by Abby. I was expecting some thrilling moments, given F. Gary Gray’s experience in the action genre in the likes of The Italian Job and Fast & Furious 8 a.k.a. The Fate of the Furious. But the chase makes me feel like I’m watching a sightseeing tour with a little speed added. Even the stakes are near zero.

It would take a long while around half an hour or so before the plot — credited to Daniel Kunka’s script, who previously wrote the uninspired Speed meets Die Hard with a Vengeance-like 12 Rounds back in 2009 — finally takes off (no pun intended) when Abby is forced to recruit Cyrus and his crew to steal half a billion worth’s of gold bars.

But they have to do so in mid-air since the team is required to board a plane, where the gold bars are stored securely. To make things complicated, it isn’t a private plane but an airliner carrying hundreds of passengers. You certainly need a suspension of disbelief to enjoy the whole mid-air heist from the planning to the execution itself. It’s all mindless fun-while-it-lasts type of action and heist tropes combined and if you have seen enough of these movies, you know something will go wrong.

Despite the movie’s big-budget tag reportedly costing US$100 million to make, some of the special effects and background locations (like the one that takes place in the Alps) look visually inconsistent. Action sequences are nothing spectacular but sufficient enough to keep me occupied, thanks to F. Gary Gray’s overall entertaining direction.

It also helps the rest of the cast — well, most of them, anyway — are having fun in their respective roles, namely Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Abby who has to disguise as a trophy wife of sorts while others like Úrsula Corberó, Kim Yun-Jee and Vincent D’Onofrio are worth mentioning as well. Shame about Sam Worthington, who is given a thankless role as Abby’s superior while Jean Reno looks tired in his bland antagonist turn as the wealthy Jorgensen.

Lift is currently streaming on Netflix.