Bitcoin Heist - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Bitcoin Heist

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Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :halfstar:
Final Score: :3.5stars:



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Movie


Heist movies are nothing new in cinematic history. We’ve had everything from classic gangster films where the mobsters are trying to knock over a bank, space robberies (think Firefly), films like Ocean’s 11/12/13, and countless others to entertain people with the idea of Robin Hood’s ripping off the big bad rich guy who is stomping all over the little guy. It used to be gold coins, then it became stacks of cash, and now it’s moved on to something decidedly more digital in the modern era. Laundering money and utilizing bitcoins as a mode of untraceable currency has become prevalent in modern fiction and reality during the last decade (ish), and Bitcoin Heist capitalizes on that particular niche with obvious gusto, albeit mixed in with a heavy dose of amateur hour at the same time.

We don’t usually see a lot of Vietnamese action/thriller movies in the Asian market compared to other heavy hitters. It used to be that Hong Kong and mainland China were the mainstays, but recently the Koreans have really been knocking it out of the park with their efforts, however we don’t really see much from Vietnam. There’s been a few cool period piece martial arts flicks on my radar, but very few others. Now it looks like they’re trying to go a bit more “mainstream” when it comes to the rest of the world and have struck out on their very first big budget heist movie with mixed results.

Bitcoin Heist starts out with a jail scene where one of the main characters seems to be in jail for some previous crimes. Immediately shifting forward (or backwards) a few years we come to just a couple years into OUR future in 2020. There a group of Cyber Crimes agents are tracking down a notorious criminal, known as “The Ghost”, who is using bitcoins as a method of making illegal funds from a virus known as Khimera. Agent Dada (Kate Nhung) ends up botching the operation and catches the low-level courier Phuc (Thanh Pham) instead of finding out WHO The Ghost actually is. In an effort to stay out of prison, Phuc strikes a deal with Dada in exchange for having his criminal record erased. He’ll lead them directly to The Ghost, but it’s going to take an incredible heist to be able to get them close.

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With The Ghost dealing in virtual currency like bitcoins, there’s no transfer of physical items to track down, but like everything in the virtual world everything can be traced with the proper tools. Dada has to recruit the hacker Vi (Suboi), conman (and ex-boyfriend) Jack (Petey Majik Nguyen), jewel thief Luhan (Jayvee Mai The Hiep) and Luhan’s acrobatic daughter Linh (Lam Thanh My) to pull it off ala Ocean’s 11. Well, things unfold pretty closely to what one would expect. The group is able to get in and get the information they need, but a mid point twist turns the movie on its ear and gives us a new villain (or at least a new perspective on the villain) to fuel the rest of the film to the obvious conclusion.

Bitcoin Heist has its heart in the right place, and uses some tried and true heist tropes, but it also has a big problem with execution. Director Ham Tran has a good handle on where he wants to go with the film, but it’s pretty obvious he hasn’t directed a heist movie before. There are plenty of old tropes mixed in with new oddball technological issues and sometimes the blending of the two comes off as a bit hammy and cliched. Everyone fulfills their classic roles well, with the acrobatic gymnast who gets into the tight places, the distraction of a conman, the tough police agent, and the double cross near the center point to take advantage of its OWN distraction.

The first half of the film actually is quite decent, and the heist itself in the center of the movie is well done. It’s after the big twist after that point that things start to fall apart. I won’t spoil WHAT the twist is (as that’s not exactly fair), but needless to say the last 40 minutes feel a bit over bloated, with a second setup and heist underway, some needless romantic drama, and a conclusion that really feels like it was a bit too obvious after the twist was revealed. Basically, we’ve seen everything before, and in this same type of scenario. A move which robs the film of any real tension as most viewers will catch the obvious ending coming a mile away. There’s plenty of fun to be had, and the movie itself is quite enjoyable, but I wouldn’t go in expecting something new and clever, but rather a decent heist thriller with a few unique twists.





Rating:

Not Rated by the MPAA




Video: :4stars:
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The Vietnamese film is given a very impressive 2.39:1 AVC encoded transfer from independent studio Well Go USA, and the results are usually very very nice looking. The film has a very heavy use of stylized color grading, and employs your typical blue/teal hue that is very commonly used in a thriller, but also uses some heavy use of reds during the actual heist. The film opens up with a very weirdly shot action set piece that looks like it was shot through use of go-pro style cameras with a fish eye lens applied, giving the entire sequence a sort of distorted and soft look to it. After that (and during the opening prison scene) the film sharpens up quite a bit and we’re privy to some very highly detailed facial textures and the like. The blacks are very impressive most of the time, but the escape with the boat near the end shows some pretty wicked banding that stays around for a few minutes. It’s NEARLY a 4.5/5 transfer, but the banding and opening softs shots keeps it from being truly amazing.








Audio: :4.5stars:
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The biggest and most amazing thing about the movie is the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in the film’s natural Vietnamese. To say that the track is an aggressive and bass heavy mix is a complete understatement. My jaw was hanging down to my knees within the first 10 minutes with a baseline that just ripples into the low teens and vibrates anything and everything off the wall. Later on during the heist I actually was watching the clip lights on my amp light up a few times with a low pulse that had my ears feeling like I was flying at about 30,000 feet up in the ear. And the bass doesn’t stop there as Ham Tran and his mixers use every opportunity they can to employ a heavy hitting low end that put a sloppy grin all over my face. My only complaint comes from some of the recorded dialog early on the film, which sounds a bit harsh on the high end. After the opening 15 minutes that seems to dissipate to a more nominal sound that is more indicative of higher quality dubbing. The film uses mostly Vietnamese, but there are splashes of English (as well as some Korean) to spice things up when dealing with Thomas and the caper. Surrounds are used quite extensively throughout, and coupled with the heavy LFE usage, makes for an impressively immersive experience.







Extras: :halfstar:
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• Well Go USA trailers
• Theatrical Trailer






Final Score: :3.5stars:



Bitcoin Heist has a lot going for it and has quite a bit of adventure and twists along the way. However it tends to struggle under the weight of too many intersecting plotlines as well as a very tenuous hold on the actual subject matter at hand during the second half of the film to really reach its full potential. I give Ham Tran and the actors full credit for making a very fast paced heist movie with a lot of energy, but a little spit and polish in the directing and writing area could have helped quite a bit. Audio and video are excellent, although Well Go USA sadly forewent and substantial extras for the combo pack except for a handful of trailers. While it’s not a perfect film, it does make for an entertaining watch and would serve well as a decent rental.




Technical Specifications:

Starring: Kate Nhung, Thanh Pham, Petey Majik Nguyen
Directed by: Ham Tran
Written by: Anderson Le, Scott Nguyen
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Vietnamese: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Vietnamese DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 116 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 4th, 2017







Recommendation: Decent Watch

 

Todd Anderson

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This looks like an interesting flick... problem is finding it as a rental. Pretty certain RedBox won't carry it.
 

Michael Scott

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yeah, Well GO USA titles are harder to find in redbox, but they go super cheap fast so It's never a big thing with them usually.
 

Asere

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I am thinking about buying this one as it seems interesting.
 
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