Review: Netflix Original “Coin Heist” Forgets To Deliver Any Kind Of Message
When I was a kid, movies that were aiming for my demographic usually had a message they wanted to get across: nothing is more important than family, sometimes being yourself is the most powerful weapon, your imagination can create worlds that help you escape from the real one, something that was supposed to be motivational. With “Coin Heist”, a film that Netflix categorizes as a film for children and families, I kept waiting for that inspirational message that would bring everything together but what I got instead was, “You can break the law in an extreme fashion and it could end up all being okay with no consequences as long as you blackmail a superior”. Not exactly the heartwarming experience I was expecting.
When the headmaster of a prep school gets arrested for embezzling money, it comes to light that that school is on the verge of shutting down. Fortunately the students were just taken on a field trip to the U.S. Mint and shown how easy it is to make coins and how one screwed up coin can be worth a lot of money. This is when Jason (Alex Saxon), son of the disgraced headmaster and mastermind of the plan, Dakota (Sasha Pieterse), O.C.D. sufferer and master organizer, Alice (Alexis G. Zall), a young hacker that has clearly been caught before but doesn’t seem to mind, and Benny (Jay Walker), a genius when it comes to engineering because his uncle owns his own mechanic shop, all decide to put their “talents” to good use and come up with a plan to break into The Mint, make their coin 2,000 times, and then find a buyer and save the school. Sounds like an easy enough plan. Judging by the way the movie plays out, it is pretty easy. All you have to do is watch a bunch of crime movies, hope that no one at The Mint realizes children are walking around, and pray that every adult in your life is okay with turning a blind eye to a federal crime and you’re on your way to making a lot of money.
Writer/director Emily Hagins does a good enough job at creating sort of well-rounded characters. There are those small moments I couldn’t stop thinking about like how Benny seems disenchanted with everyone thinking he’s a thief yet his way of combating that is to be a thief, or that Alice is this intelligent hacker — I mean, she has hacked NASA, ya know — yet it seems she’s always getting caught. There’s also that small fact of Jason not committing to anything or caring about much yet he somehow bumbles his way through a complicated heist plan just by watching “Ocean’s Eleven”. What I guess I liked though is that the characters themselves could have been written much worse. That’s a terrible compliment and I understand that, but take a Diablo Cody movie for instance: when young characters are written poorly, or the writer tries to inject some kind of new lingo into the youth world, it’s cringe-worthy. Fortunately, Hagins steers clear of that trap and kept her characters realistic for the most part. I’m just digging myself deeper so I’m going to bail on this part of the review.
The problem with aiming this film towards kids and family is there are no repercussions for the crime these kids commit. There’s nothing telling a young kid who watches this movie that there’s anything really deterring them from trying to do the same thing. Or that stealing is even all that bad. There is no message here and that’s the biggest flaw. Once you realize they’re not going to wrap everything up nicely, you start to go through the movie in your head and pick out plot points that didn’t get followed to their conclusion and realize there’s more than one. It hurts the overall film and all Hagins had to do was make the ending realistic instead of going for the anti-Hollywood ending. And yeah, I know it’s based on a book and, while I haven’t read it, maybe she’s sticking to the original ending, but maybe not every book needs a movie counterpart.
All-in-all, not much to recommend about this film. If your kid does want to watch it, know that it’s not as bad as it could have been. It’s watchable. It’s just not fun to do so.