Producers:  James Langer, Mike D. Ware, Matthew G. Zamias, Kelly Mi Li, Lucas Jerach, Byron Wetzel and Sean Kaplan   Director: Seth Savoy   Screenplay: Kevin Bernhardt, Jason Miller and Seth Savoy   Cast: Patrick Schwarzenegger, Gilles Geary, Hayley Law, Jacob Alexander, Oliver Cooper, Kate Linder, Lesley Ann Warren, Alex Pettyfer and Michael Shannon   Distributor: Saban Films

Grade: B-

Seth Savoy’s action drama adds a note of socio-political commentary to its tale of a gang of robbers hitting posh houses in Chicago, but there’s little depth to its analysis of their motives; indeed, the few psychological observations offered are ridiculously pat.  If you set aside its more pretentious aspirations, though, the movie works pretty well as a heist story told in retro film noirish style even if it is in color.

The protagonist we’re meant to sympathize with is Lance Zutterland (Patrick Schwarzenegger), who’s just graduated from college with a degree in Art, $60,000 in student loan debt and no job prospects.  Coming to the rescue—apparently—is his cousin Jack (Gilles Geary), who tells him he has a job for him in the Windy City.

The position turns out to be very illegal.  Jack is part of a crew that breaks into rich peoples’ homes, snatches valuables (including artworks, which Lance will be able to appraise on the spot).  The group’s leader is Ellis Beck (Alex Pettyfer), a surly fellow whose girlfriend Allie Tucker (Hayley Law) is also part of the gang.  The others are Chandler (Jacob Alexander) and Stewart (Oliver Cooper), who case the houses ahead of time and help to ensure the places will be unoccupied when they strike.  They quickly load the loot into a moving truck and deliver it to Mel Donnelly (Michael Shannon), who owns a shipping company and sends the stuff abroad for sale.  He provides the addresses he gets from a snitch at an insurance agency and pays the gang off depending on the value of the take.           

We know from the start that the operation has gone south, since Lance is in prison, being interviewed by a woman identified only as the author (Lesley Ann Warren), who’s planning a book on the outfit.  The plot details how and why everything collapsed. 

One aspect of the gang’s modus operandi is, as Mel acidly points out, part of the problem—their habit of trashing the houses they rob before leaving.  It establishes a pattern that links all the jobs—always a danger.

So why do they insist on continuing to do it?  Because—and here is where the socio-political commentary comes in—they all feel cheated by the system in some way and looking to lash out against the wrongs they’ve suffered.  The script provides a run-down in a montage narrated by Allie at one point.  For Alex, as for Lance, it’s the feeling that the establishment lied to them about following the rules, getting a college degree and having a guaranteed future.  For the others, it has more to do with family failures—not being loved enough, or being oppressed by parental expectations.  This aspect of the film is, frankly, its weakest aspect, the bargain-basement psychological sort of stuff we’ve previously encountered in “The Billionaire Boys’ Club” and “The Bling Ring.”

Otherwise, though, “Echo Boomers” works reasonably well as a straight action movie.  It’s inevitable that there will be trouble between Lance and Ellis over Allie—that’s part of noir formula—and Geary persuasively portrays the unreliable guy with an agenda of his own, always egging the hero on. Director Seth Savoy keeps things pulsing along, abetted by solid contributions from cinematographer Carlos Verón, production designer Adro Siriwatt (lots of attractive stuff gets smashed), editors Dean Gonzalez and Ken O’Keefe (plenty of rushed montages) and composer Dara Taylor (whose score is suitably propulsive).  It’s just enough to make you forgive the obvious stumbles in the plot—like the way in which the gang compensates when Mel stops supplying them with addresses to hit.  And the final double-cross is reasonably satisfying, noir-style. 

Savoy also  has a solid cast to depend on.   The always watchable Shannon makes a hissable villain, and Pettyfer convinces as a guy ready to blow up.  Law is attractively conflicted, while Alexander and Cooper fill the bill as the goofier members of the crew.  And Schwarzenegger exhibits some acting skills he hasn’t before.  He tends to overdo the facial contortions for emotional effect, but otherwise shows that he has promise as a very different kind of leading man from his father. 

“Echo Boomers” expends too much energy playing the boomer-millennial card, but as a straightforward heist movie, it’s more effective than not.