Netflix’s Lift Relies on Too Many Heist Clichés

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Summary

  • Lift follows the typical heist movie formula, which can make it predictable and full of clichés.
  • The characters in Lift play familiar archetypes seen in many other heist films, with Kevin Hart taking a more serious role.
  • While Lift has exciting action scenes, the screenplay and dialogue are lackluster, resulting in an overall mediocre film experience.


What is the heist subgenre? If you have seen films like Inception, American Hustle, or Den of Thieves, you have a pretty good idea of what it is and the changes that can be made to it in each film. Nine times out of ten, we’re watching somebody lead a team of thieves to steal vast sums of money, no matter how that money is presented or acquired. Now, Netflix has a brand-new heist movie taking the streaming service by storm.

On the surface, Kevin Hart’s Lift seems like a fun action comedy about stealing a bunch of gold from a plane. It has all the qualities of a heist film with a charming cast and action-packed scenes. Hart takes a different approach than the characters he usually plays, being more serious in this film than his comedic tendencies. This movie is a heist film through and through. But that’s the biggest issue with Lift: it overuses clichés. Because it has heist subgenre elements, the clichés that are presented are all too recognizable.

WARNING: Spoilers for Netflix’s Lift


Same Heist Formula

Lift
Lift

Release Date
January 12, 2024

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When it comes to heist movies and TV shows, this is the formula that the subgenre typically follows: the planning, setting up the heist, things go terribly wrong along the way, yet the characters somehow manage to pull through and get the job done and escape with the loot. Usually, there is some sort of twist at the end, but that’s not always the case with some heist movies.

Lift follows this formula perfectly, which is where the problem lies. Most heist screenings add at least something new, like Ocean’s 8 having an all-female lead casting or incorporating a separate genre (like Fantasy with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves). Lift does nothing to add to an already preordained formula.

There’s nothing wrong with sticking to what you know. It’s very recognizable and makes it easier for the audience to understand where the plot is going. But there are downsides to this as well, and it’s not just all the clichés involved. Creating a heist movie without branching out to make it more unique makes the film too predictable. This is, unfortunately, what Lift does. Hart’s movie plays it too safe and doesn’t add anything new. We know how the film will end from the start, and sure enough, Cyrus (Hart) and his crew steal the gold shipment.

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The Characters Are Familiar Archetypes

You may have noticed another familiar pattern in Lift, along with the heist plot formula. That is the fact that the characters play certain roles in Cyrus’s heist crew, and they are the same archetypes that are presented in almost every other heist film. In Cyrus’s crew, you have the inside connection, Denton (Vincent D’Onofrio), the pilot Camila (Ursula Corbero), the safecracker Magnus (Billy Magnussen), the hacker Mi-Sun (Kim Yoon-Ji), and the engineer Luke (Viveik Kalra). This combination of skill sets is precisely the team in other heist films and TV shows. Because of this, we don’t see Kevin Hart be, well, Kevin Hart. The humor falls on the rest of the crew, while Hart plays the typical “cool and serious” heist leader. Seeing Hart play a conventional character in an action comedy film is unusual, though this break from his usual role does help Lift.

Each crew member does their specific job, and that’s about it. They don’t have much characterization after that. Most of the character depth we see comes from Cyrus and Abby (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), but that’s mostly when they rekindle their relationship. Other than that, the characters don’t change all that much. The only one with some sort of revelation is Abby when she quits Interpol, and that’s not until the movie’s end.

The Clichéd Screenplay Outweighs Action Scenes

This film has some pretty good action sequences. With F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton; The Fate of the Furious) directing the film, it’s hard not to appreciate some over-the-top escapes or explosions. That’s another cliché brought from early influential heist films, but it’s never without any excitement. But with recent action films (like, for example, Fast X), there’s an action sequence in just about every scene that takes away from the screenplay. The good thing is that Lift doesn’t have this problem. The bad thing is that Lift has this issue in reverse. While the film’s action scenes were good, the dialogue and screenplay were very lackluster.

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The movie was written by Daniel Kunka, a name you likely haven’t heard before. The only other project that Kunka wrote before 2024’s Lift was the 2009 action crime thriller 12 Rounds, which starred John Cena. 12 Rounds had the same issue that Lift has: the 2009 film was full of great action scenes and violence, but the screenplay and character depth fell terribly short.

Despite all these clichés and a low Rotten Tomatoes score, Lift became a huge Netflix hit. The film has a talented cast, and it’s full of thrills. Plus, there were bound to be die-hard Kevin Hart fans who would watch anything he produced or starred in. It is worth watching if you don’t mind all the clichés and predictable moves by the characters, as most of the time, a heist film is still enjoyable. Lift is now available to stream on Netflix.

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