Kevin Hart has lent his voice to a duo of “Secret Life of Pets” installments and joined his pal Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for a couple of “Jumanji” blockbusters. Now he’s hoping to kick-start a live-action franchise where he gets top billing. Hart stars in Netflix’s “Lift” as Cyrus, the leader of a group of art thieves who make sure paintings, sculptures and NFTs go to their deserving owners… while also earning some serious money.
After the initial heist sequence, it gets pretty generic. Past relationships are brought-up (including a reunion for Cyrus and Abby, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw). We get to know the team. There’s a lot of prepping and planning-out of their next big, high-stakes job, with plenty of typical spy, high-tech pizzaz that director F. Gary Gray really likes to show-off (including a giant plane where much of the action in the second half takes place).
I like that “Lift” isn’t designed to have a joke or a punchline every 20 seconds. That’s probably my favorite aspect of the script, and so there’s a little enjoyment out of the experience not having to laugh at every single beat (rare for an action comedy these days). But this just isn’t a very exciting movie.
And I don’t think Hart honestly fits this boss role well. Some of his dialogue deliveries really don’t work. Sam Worthington delivers a semi-embarrassing, awkward performance. Vincent D’Onofrio plays an interesting, but underused character. (He’s especially sidelined in the final act.) There’s a quieter scene D’Onofrio has with Hart that’s solid — and more of that aspect of this film could’ve been explored.
Gray has made better movies than this, including “Straight Outta Compton” and even the so-so “The Fate of the Furious”. “Lift” is slightly more enjoyable than Gray’s very messy 2019 “Men in Black International”, but it’s still a let-down.