Producers: Joel Cohen and Cecil Chambers   Director: Ives   Screenplay: Dipo Oseni and Doug Richardson   Cast: John Travolta, Kristin Davis, Lukas Haas, Quavo, Joel Cohen, Natali Yura, Swen Temmel, Noel G. (Noel Gugliemi), Matt Gerald, Bernard White, Alex Hurt, Victorya Brandart and Chris Lindsay   Distributor: Saban Films

Grade: D

Hostages are taken in this bank heist flick, and watching it you might feel like one of them.  “Cash Out” aims to exude the cool cleverness of old movies like “The Thomas Crown Affair,” but it’s a torpid, stifling misfire, made worse by John Travolta’s grating attempt to play a charming rogue in the Steve McQueen mold.

Travolta is Mason Goddard, supposedly a master thief whose latest escapade (the theft of a one-of-a-kind sports car) with his crew—his girlfriend Amelia Deckard (Kristin Davis), his younger brother Shawn (Lukas Haas), and comrades Anton (Quavo), Hector (Noel G.) and computer whiz Link (Natali Yuri)—proves so disastrous that though they all escape capture, he decides to retire: he’s crushed because Amelia was an FBI agent planted as a mole on his team, and she’d not just totally fooled him but entrapped him emotionally in the process.

Shawn prods Mason to get back into the game, but he demurs, preferring to sit on his patio and swig beer after beer.  So Shawn, easily one of the dumbest characters ever to inhabit a movie like this, ineptly plots a robbery himself, targeting a safety deposit box containing, on the basis of information he’s collected, the key to a fortune.  The scheme begins with his forcing bank manager Caras (Swen Temmel) at gunpoint to leave his lunch and accompany him to the bank to unlock the box; Anton and Hector will take the patrons and security guards hostage while Link keeps track of everything via her laptop.

Mason has already arrived on the scene, worried about his brother’s ability to carry off such a job.  His concerns prove justified: the safe deposit box proves not to contain the cryptocurrency wallet Shawn had expected, which sets off a desperate search for the one actually housing it.  Meanwhile the authorities surround the bank, first the local cops led by an irascible captain (Matt Gerald), and then by FBI forces whose arrival does not sit well with him.  And those federal troops are headed by none other than Deckard, whose feelings for Mason remain real—as do his for her, even as they try to negotiate a way out of the dire situation. (Their exchanges are excruciating to listen to.) 

The plot thickens—or sickens—further as the Goddards learn that the wallet, containing not just cash but a wellspring of damaging information, belongs to an all-powerful crime lord named Salazar and can be opened only via a computer housed in the building next door; they literally have to burrow through a wall to get to it.  Mr. Flowers (Alex Hurt), Salazar’s representative, arrives on the scene to demand an immediate resolution of the crisis, in his boss’ favor, of course. 

In time a Special Ops force led by hot-tempered Commander Cyrus (Chris Lindsay) is dispatched to shove Deckard to the sidelines and end the standout by any means necessary, despite the agent’s complaint to her boss Richter (Joel Cohen, one of the producers in a small role that nonetheless gets him prominence in the opening credits), who tells her his hands are tied.  Naturally, Mason turns things to his advantage through an arrangement with Flowers that’s meant to be ingenious but isn’t.

A tale like this needs surprises, suspense, and smarts; “Cash Out” has none of these.  It’s lethargically directed by someone who’s chosen to call himself Ives—no doubt a pseudonym for Randall Emmett, a prolific producer of schlock who recently inaugurated a directorial career with “Midnight in the Switchgrass,” one of Bruce Willis’ late-career disasters, and is listed as helming an already completed sequel to this effort, subtitled “High Rollers”—and jerkily edited by Marc Fusco (the opening car-hijacking sequence is a mess, and what follows is mostly turgid, a couple of clumsily staged chase sequences apart).  The dialogue provided by scripters Dipo Oseni and Doug Richardson is at best perfunctory, and it’s delivered without conviction by most of the cast, apart from a few who try to jazz things up by going frantic.  The picture also looks dully washed-out, with nondescript locations (Columbus, Georgia), a drab production design (Travis Zariwny), and cinematography (Alejandro Lalinde) that’s unimaginative, save for an overuse of drone shots.  Even Yagmur Kaplan’s score is a low-energy affair.

And what can one say of Travolta?  He’s become a smirking, hulking bore, who still has screen presence but does nothing with it.  He no longer bothers to act, choosing to stroll through roles in sub-mediocre junk relying on memories of his long-ago stardom to keep viewers interested.  At least Nicolas Cage punctuates his stream of low-budget trash with performances (“Pig,” “Dream Scenario”) that show there’s still talent there.  Travolta’s career has been rescued from the doldrums before; perhaps it can be again.  But not if he continues to content himself collecting paychecks by doing stuff like this.