Lift review: Netflix’s New Heist Movie

“Lift” is an action movie that is as meaningless and generic as its title; it’s the same shiny, meaningless fare that Netflix consistently releases, regardless of our demand. It’s more in keeping with “The Gray Man” than it is with “Red Notice,” for example, and less aggressively glib: competently crafted and star-studded, with a number of fascinating themes, but empty.

Better action films (“Set It Off,” “The Italian Job”) have been directed by seasoned filmmaker F. Gary Gray in the past, and he probably will again. “Lift,” like a lot of movies before it, is about a diverse group of con artists attempting to pull off an apparently impossible heist. There are some delights in that concept, particularly when the task gets more difficult. However, the characters in Daniel Kunka’s script have so little depth that it’s hard to care if they get away with it, and the special effects sometimes give the impression that we’re playing a video game.

A team of experienced, tech-savvy burglars has to pilfer gold bars valued at half a billion dollars from a commercial flight from London to Zurich. Their boss is Cyrus, played by Kevin Hart, who we first witness stealing a posh Venice art auction early in the movie. This is the type of film that entices viewers to see the world with glittering overhead views of popular European cities like Venice, London, and Brussels. They all run in unison, sort of. This is a pleasant departure from Hart’s fast-talking, dumbfounded demeanor. But “Lift” doesn’t provide him with anything engaging to do in place of casting him as a roguish, romantic protagonist.

Lift review: Netflix’s New Heist Movie

Cyrus has a history with Abby Gladwell, the Interpol investigator pursuing his group, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. There’s not much chemistry between the two, just some uncomfortable flirting. Abby unwillingly enlists Cyrus and his crew to take the gold, which wealthy bad guy Jean Reno is transferring to a terrorist organization in order to cause disasters from which he may benefit later, on orders from her employer, “Avatar” actor Sam Worthington, who, for once, gets to be Australian. It makes no sense at all, but that’s the whole idea: to give these folks an excuse to come together and perform some intricate mid-air antics.All of them have distinct roles; for example, Camilla (Úrsula Corberó) is a pilot, Mi-Sun (Yun Jee Kim) is a hacker, Denton (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a master of disguise, and so on. In high-rise apartments and warehouses, where the lighting is uniformly bright and flat and the chatter tries to be lighthearted, they sit about and joke around with one another. The lone exception is Billy Magnussen, who plays the safecracker Magnus. In this scene, he’s acting in a deliciously absurd way that makes me think of Brad Pitt from “Burn After Reading.” He seems to be in a whole different film, one that you wish you were seeing in its place.

However, a large portion of “Lift’s” exhilarating and thrilling moments are composed of clumsy fast-cut scenes, zooms, and montages. There comes a point at which we have seen enough fistfights on flights. Like the movie itself, they get monotonous and boring after a while. However, “lift” could be most appreciated when you’re really in the air, needing something stupid to kill time, and have nothing better to do.

Lift review: Netflix’s New Heist Movie

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