Marauders was directed by Steven C. Miller (Arsenal, Escape Plan 2: Hades), written by Michael Cody and Chris Sivertson (Monstrous, Kindred Spirits), and stars Christopher Meloni (Law & Order, Almost Friends), Adrian Grenier (Entourage, The Devil Wears Prada), Johnathon Schaech (Day of the Dead: Bloodline, Texas Rising), Bruce Willis (Death Wish, Apex), Lydia Hull (Hot Seat, Escape Plan: the Extractors), Tyler Jon Olson (Survive the Night, Trauma Center), and Dave Bautista (Army of the Dead, My Spy). It’s about federal and local officers solving the string of bank robberies that may be about more than just money.
The Plot: Conspiracy-based movies rarely get paired with heists, and as such, Marauders is something of an anomaly in the cinemascape. Cody and Sivertson come up with some good ideas and execute most of them well enough, although the details can fall through the cracks.
Four armed men have just stolen at least 3 million dollars from a bank owned by Hubert (Willis). Federal agents Montgomery (Meloni), Stockwell (Bautista), and Chase (Hull) are on the scene, but they weren’t the first. That attribute goes to local officers Mims (Schaech) and Derohan (Olson), who have the only print and immediately shook down the man it belonged to. Marauders does a good job at setting up two very different teams working toward the same end goal, effectively giving both an action and crime slant to the movie.
Getting the information from the locals proves to be a setback, but the FBI agents, including new agent Wells (Grenier) find that the print leads to a dead man who held Hubert’s brother for ransom. Cavalcade information is a problem to the audience, if not the characters since the movie throws a lot of names, events, and ideas to the forefront within 25 minutes. With time, things become clearer, but not before the thieves commit another robbery on another bank owned by Hubert, exposing a definitive target and opening the gates for conspiracy.
Wells gets assigned to watch over Mims, bridging the subplots, but the movie still reaches for greater complication beyond its crime/conspiracy basis by adding more strains with government figures and a bit of philosophy; more elements than it perhaps needs. Still, it’s the main plot that’s interesting and well handled by Miller, though the writers could’ve made things clearer and more leaned off of all of the expository dialogue.
The Characters: Cliches that are finely tuned for the setting they’re placed in are hardly negative in their impact; a fact that Marauders utilizes to its advantage by crafting well-acted scenes with the characters that humanize them beyond their roles in the plot.
Special Agent in Charge is a title bestowed onto Montgomery, who embodies that very well by the way he always keeps on top of his team’s investigation, demanding that the members get everything necessary to solve the case before the police or anyone else can. Whether that’s by sending Wells to observe the police force with a questionable history or by loading questions on suspects; as a smooth talker and highly literate man, he knows how to push people’s buttons to get answers out of them, and always does it by the book. That rule book is all he has left since his wife was killed, leaving him wanting for justice, further motivating the man.
Other agents get bits and pieces, like Wells who’s fresh from training but not unprepared, due to his time in the military as a sniper. He’s blunter than Montgomery but no less competent. Stockwell and Chase don’t get much but are performed with ease by their actors.
It’s Mims that gets more development, which makes sense to give the other side of the investigation someone to understand and root for, and Schaech delivers in the role. Because of his ideal form of justice comes from brute force and rumours about taking money from raids, he’s not trusted by the feds. While these things are true, we do come to understand why he skims the top, and the movie does well to make him a suspect in the chain of heists.
Hubert, while not a major player on screen, does have a far reach in the story. When on screen, he’s eccentric (monologuing about a spider) and a little shady (using fake names on some safety deposit boxes), but smart about how he verbally spars with others, especially in one moment where he and Montgomery discuss allegations versus questions.
Cody and Sivertson may not have written original characters, but there’s plenty of merit to be found in the way they went above the bar to give presence and emotion to most of them, although there are extraneous characters like a reporter, a police chief, and others that sometimes take away from more screen time with the wonderful cast on display.
The Crime: Part heist and part conspiracy, the crime element on both ends works very well for most of Marauders’ runtime in allowing it to give deeper meaning to the criminals’ actions and the investigation that it sets off.
Opening with a bang brings the heist sections to attention. Miller directs the action well, making the assailants move quickly and with purpose, all the while illustrating their masterful planning of each job. Using leftover tactical gear from an ex-military source, they hide their identities with masks straight out of Payday and use text-to-speech messages to avoid speaking. Even without audio, they’re clearly angry at specific people, executing a manager (although using the cop-out defence of “he was bad”) and only hitting Hubert’s banks. Each sequence involving the men is tightly wound and makes for an interesting scenario to follow.
Procedural elements, however, are the main facet of Marauders’ crime plot, and they’re no slouch. Clues seem to bring the investigators in circles at times, with assumedly planted evidence leading to a dead man and hunches that Montgomery has brought the FBI back to Mims and the Cincinnati PD because of their history of playing the favourite with the media via leaking details about cases.
When the focus flips to their perspective, things stay interesting as Mims and Derohan trace an SUV used as a getaway vehicle to follow the thieves in an attempt to arrest them before they have the chance to strike again. Details in the midst of all of these individuals can get lost in transmission but the tent poles stand.
Banking is a shady thing by nature, dealing with other people’s money while trying to turn profits on the back end, but the conspiracy in Marauders’ script is a little too pulpy for its own good. Insurance scams are one thing, but the way that the contents of the banks are being utilized and the motivation behind multiple parties involved stretch reality too far for the grounded first hour and twenty-five minutes to remain unscathed.
Sometimes things get fuzzy, not everything falls into place, and the twists are farfetched, but Marauders delivers strong robbery sequences, a compelling investigation, and good drama in between about the rivalry between federal and state law enforcement without having to go the buddy cop route.
The Technics: Competence is to be expected out of any movie, and Marauders lives up to the bare minimum with its contents, which do follow suit with its producers’ previous works, but there are brief moments that set it apart from them.
Editorially, the movie works well in its back and forth between different segments of the investigation and well-cut action beats. Paired with good work from cinematographer Brandon Cox (Vendetta, Cosmic Sin), the movie looks very good and appears to have made good use out of its unexpectedly low budget of $15 million.
Exposition is the big culprit for the frequency of confusing plot developments, as “show, don’t tell” was cast aside in service of more TV-friendly dialogue exchanges. Muddied waters are cleared but there’s a noticeable range of possibilities for improvement in the dialogue department.
Marauders isn’t perfect, but it satisfies the requirements of crime cinema and then some with its plot, characters, heist scenes, and strong acting across the board.