A ragtag team of art thieves is recruited by Interpol to stop a terrorist financier from transporting his own gold in Lift, a flashy but entirely hollow new caper movie now streaming on Netflix. On first glance, this one seems like it has all the necessary elements to make for breezy streaming entertainment, but it lacks the narrative glue to make any sense of it all.
Lift stars Kevin Hart as Cyrus, suave criminal mastermind and ladies’ man and this film’s version of George Clooney in the Ocean’s 11 films. But Lift never takes advantage of its promising casting of a talented comedian playing against type, and Hart saunters through the film entirely straight, as if he slotted in when Dwayne Johnson wasn’t available.
The film wastes no time in getting into the action, as an introductory heist in Venice plays out before Lift has even introduced its central characters. They include engineer Luke (Viveik Kalra) and safecracker Magnus (Billy Magnussen), who work on lifting a $20 million Van Gogh self-portrait at a Venice auction while Cyrus, pilot Camila (Úrsula Corberó), and hacker Mi-Sun (Yun Jee Kim) complete the real heist: legitimately purchasing an NFT for the same amount.
Now, NFTs might have been hot property when Lift was conceived and filmed, but despite faking the kidnapping of masked artist N8 (Jacob Batalon) to generate publicity, the purported return of $73 million on their $20 million NFT investment in 2024 is a genuine laugh. They shoulda stuck with the Van Gogh.
While we’re playing catch-up in an attempt to understand who these characters are and what, exactly, they might be doing (don’t worry: it’s all painfully explained through exposition after the events have unfolded), Lift‘s opening heist is pretty fun, highlighted by a slick motorboat chase through the canals of Venice.
A climactic heist sequence aboard a plane is similarly exciting stuff, even though while we understand what’s supposed to be happening this time around, it still doesn’t make much sense. The technical proficiency of Lift is largely thanks to director F. Gary Gray, who has handled this kind of thing before, to better effect, in films like The Fate of the Furious and 2005’s The Italian Job.
Outside of the opening and closing heist scenes, however, Lift offers little to maintain our interest. The remaining hour-plus of this movie is characters in offices and warehouses and luxury apartments explaining the events of the movie to us, and while that might accurately reflect the amount of planning that goes into pulling off real-world heists, the events in Lift could never be confused with something that might take place in any real world.
The plot involves Interpol agent Abby (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a once and future romantic interest for Cyrus who comes thisclose to nabbing him in Venice… before boss Huxley (Sam Worthington) orders her to instead recruit the team to steal some gold from big baddie Jorgensen (Jean Reno) before he can move it to terrorists.
Lift also features a purported master of disguise, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, but you’d be hard pressed to figure out exactly what his part in the heists is, or why he needs to be disguised during them. Still, D’Onofrio’s ridiculous getups are one of the few comedic highlights in what is otherwise an unusually serious-minded affair.
Audiences catching Lift on Netflix in early January probably aren’t expecting much, and this one might pass the decent-enough test if you’re doing laundry or dozing off. But for anyone paying attention, this one fails to meet the already-low standard of similarly-minded Netflix originals like Army of Thieves or 6 Underground.