13 Hours in a Warehouse: It's nice when titles can substitute as synopses.

I’ll give 13 Hours in a Warehouse this: It’s rare that you’ll get a movie with the guts to ask the question: What if, after the robbery in Reservoir Dogs, they’d gone to a warehouse haunted by the ghosts of snuff film victims?

Well, all the unlikable thief characters will wind up dead, but in ways that aren’t especially interesting, making for a mostly dull viewing experience, enlivened by two pieces of hilariously bad writing. More on that in a second – first I just want to mention how tired I am of horror movies about criminals on the run who get caught up in a horrific situation. Here’s the problem – they’re criminals, so it’s always impossible to care whether they get killed or not. This film, like many others, attempts to give the audience someone to care/worry about by dropping a hostage in there, but the woman is never once in danger, because the ghosts haunting the warehouse appear to her at the beginning of her confinement and explain to her, in no uncertain terms, that they have no interest in killing her. So there’s never really a credible threat against her life, and no reason for the audience to be scared.

Of course, even if the filmmakers had bothered to put her in danger the audience would still know she was absolutely safe because if she died then they couldn’t use the obvious joke ending that they set up for so obviously right at the beginning.

Now for that awful writing I was talking about earlier. The first example is a scene at the beginning when the criminals are sitting around, attempting to sound tarantinoan in their pop-culture influenced banter. They get into a conversation about whether Robin Williams is funny or not. This leads one character to bring up the whole ‘Comedy = Clean shaven, Drama = Bearded’ thing that some film writer mentioned years ago, and act like it’s an apt observation. Which it was, when it was first bandied about fifteen years ago. Since the late 90s he’s gone on to make plenty of dramas while remaining clean-shaven, severely dating the reference. In point of fact, there were only ever two really famous Robin Williams serious beard performances: Awakenings and Dead Poets Society.

For future reference, here’s a list of Robin Williams dramas in which he’s not bearded: What Dreams May Come, Final Cut, Insomnia, House of D, One Hour Photo, Bicentennial Man, Patch Adams, Jack, Jakob the Liar.

He did, however, grow a really thin beard for ‘The Night Listener’, which was actually pretty darn good.

The much more hilarious problem is that while the film is about a heist, the writer/director doesn’t seem to understand how crime works. It’s important to note here that the thing being stolen is of absolutely no consequence to the plot. A quintessential MacGuffin, the bag they steal could contain anything, it’s relevant only insofar as it causes all the characters to gather in the titular haunted warehouse for the titular amount of time. Because the nature of the item being stolen is completely irrelevant, I must infer that the decision to go with ‘priceless art’ was made because the writer though he’d come up with a clever crime to write about. The problem, naturally, is that he didn’t.

The heist is premised around the idea that, in order to draw less attention to its value, and to save money, priceless works of art are shipped across the country without any security, and held using local, unguarded galleries as ‘waystations’ during the trip. This is ridiculous on its face – the idea that driving art across the country is somehow cheaper and more secure than just buying a first-class ticket to wherever is absurd, but that’s not the stupidest part of the heist.

No, the stupidest part is the explanation of who hired them to steal the art in the first place. Apparently a certain ‘Nick’ is a local hood who specializes in ‘recovering’ stolen art for a fee. According to one character, the whole thing is a scam – Nick finds out about art being moved, has it stolen, waits for the gallery to collect the insurance before turning the art over to them for a fee. The museum’s happy about the arrangement, because not only do they get the art back, but they’ve made a sizable profit on its disappearance at the same time.

The writer/director has made a mistake here because of one key element – it’s not the galleries that pay fees for returned artwork, it’s insurance companies. If you get the insurance money after your painting is stolen, and then it’s recovered, you have to give the insurance money back. That’s just the way it works. You see, galleries have paintings for one of two reasons – to sell the artwork, or to display the artwork. If you report it stolen and get the insurance, then buy it back, you can’t legally keep the money – so if you want to, now you’re in a position where you can’t let anyone know you have the painting, or else you’re committing fraud. Yay.

As a lover of bad film, this is the kind of thing that makes me extremely happy – seeing someone confidently expressing totally wrong information while clearly very impressed at their own cleverness. For those fascinated by the product of failure, there’s not much better than this sort of thing.

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