Lance (Patrick Schwarzenegger, “Daniel Isn’t Real”), an unemployed college graduate travels to Chicago at the behest of a cousin and the promise of a job only to be drawn into a tight-knit cadre of millennials who express their frustrations at a broken system by robbing rich people. The viewpoint of these criminal masterminds is that their generation is set up to fail even when they do play by the rules, so why not take what they can and to hell with everyone else? Whether you enjoy this film, Echo Boomers, depends solely on how much you identify with Lance and his new cohorts, although frankly I’d think even if you were that opposed to the system you’re probably not going to go along with their methods. But for the sake of the movie, we’re asked to hate the game, not the player.
Lance is quite a callow youth. Desperate for money, he hears from his cousin Jack (Gilles Geary, “The I-Land” TV series), who has work in the art industry waiting for him. Eager to put that useful art-history degree to work, Lance heads north. Only, whoops, turns out the only art involved is in people’s homes, ready to be liberated. Lance has been brought on board in order to verify the value of certain works of art, which is definitely something I imagine a recent college grad would be able to do in an instant. The gang is your garden-variety motley crew of kids from rough backgrounds, some looking to avenge their own childhoods and some who just wanna break stuff. The group doesn’t just hit random houses, though; they have a contact at an insurance company who gives addresses to their boss, a seedy fellow named Mel (Michael Shannon, “Knives Out”). Mel then gives the address to the collective who probably should be known as Uncool and the Gang, along with a shopping list of items he wants from that particular house. Everyone gets a lot of money and is happy.
Duh, of course they’re not happy. The gang’s nominal leader, Ellis (Alex Pettyfer, “The Last Witness”), is a moody, violent drinking man who thinks he can outwit anyone in the room, but this is only the case when he is alone. His moll, er, gal pal, is Allie (Hayley Law, “Spontaneous”), who comes from good parents and naturally is rebelling against her advantages. Ellis, like his fellow masterminds, is suspicious when Lance shows up to be part of their crew, and his suspicions never truly disappear, particularly when he gets it into his fool head that there’s something going on between the newcomer and the lone female in the group. Oh, was that a spoiler? No. That kind of passive jealousy begins about two minutes after everyone first meets Lance. And you probably could have guessed it, anyway.
I have probably seen more caper movies than the average human being, and so I struggle with a plain way to express how good this movie is. Is it a bad movie because I’ve seen so many almost exactly like it, only much better? Or is it a bad movie on its own merits? This is not an easy call, so I will hedge and simply say it is a bad movie. Every step of the plot can be sussed out well in advance, the characters are very thin — especially the leads — and there’s a surprisingly low level of suspense throughout. There’s a scene in which an overdose victim is taken to the hospital. Guess what happens? There’s a scene in which a phrase not unlike “we don’t hurt anyone” is uttered. Guess what happens? There’s a scene in which two people kind of give a sly side-eye to each other. Guess what happens? If you guessed with confidence, you won’t much like Echo Boomers.
But most bad movies have some kind of positive point, and here it’s Michael Shannon, who’s terrific as the vicious small criminal Mel. Shannon’s such a great actor that even when the script gives him unmemorable lines, his delivery manages to be impactful, but not at all hammy. Let’s face it, most actors, when faced with a two-bit screenplay, tend to overact so that you notice them more than you notice the crappy dialog, probably encouraged by the director. Anyway, he’s the highlight here, even if he doesn’t have much to do other than menace the good-bad guys.
There really isn’t much else to recommend about Echo Boomers, a movie so forgettably dumb that I had to recheck the title several times while writing this review up. What’s an Echo Boomer? I’m not entirely sure, although the collective Boomers are named as the underlying cause behind everyone’s woes in this movie. I’d be more inclined to say that one should not echo the Boomers, if the movie tells me anything. But what do I know? I’m neither a Boomer nor a Millennial.