The best thing about “Term Life,” and the undisputed star of the movie, is Vince Vaughn‘s “Dumb & Dumber” haircut. It is a thing of ridiculous beauty and if not for that hairdo, this movie would’ve lost me even more quickly that it eventually did. It’s a 90 minute movie that feels five times as long as its actual run time. “Term Life” is not unwatchable, but it’s masquerading as a paltry, poorly made rip-off of “Matchstick Men” than holding its own as an original crime caper.
When he gets framed for multiple murders, Nick Barrow (Vaughn) takes out a life insurance policy and goes on the run with estranged daughter Cate (Hailee Steinfeld). The plan is to hide out for a few weeks until the insurance policy takes effect. I am not making this up, that’s the core premise of the plot. While the duo manages to keep hidden for a while, a small town sheriff (Terrence Howard) soon recognizes them and the chase begins. After this point, the story is the same old tired yarn you’ve seen many times. There’s nothing new or unique to make this one stand out from the rest. In fact, at the end of the year, I’ll probably forget having seen this film at all.
There’s a lot of mediocre gunplay, dirty cops and double crossing, and the most compelling element of the story (Nick and Cate’s relationship) becomes a secondary plot point. I could maybe overlook the flimsy screenplay if the movie was well made, but it’s not. The whole debacle feels like something a bunch of friends made in the backyard while playing around with a video camera. Director Peter Billingsley isn’t much of a talent behind the camera, and the who’s-who parade of his impressive posse of buddies (including Bill Paxton, Taraji P. Henson, Mike Epps, Jonathan Banks and Jon Favreau) feels like hasty rather than inspired casting. One things for certain: these actors are too good for these pitiful roles.
Maybe consider renting this movie if you’re bored of if you are a big fan of Vaughn, but be warned that it’s just not very good. Like its main character, “Term Life” stumbles along and ultimately goes nowhere.
“Term Life” is the perfect Netflix / Redbox movie: the sort of movie that you watch on a Thursday night, enjoy well enough, and then promptly forget about 20 minutes later. It’s satisfying enough, but there’s not a lot of “there” there.
Vince Vaughn plays Nick Barrow, a man who plans heists for a living and sells those plans to other criminals. Hailee Steinfeld plays Cate, his daughter, who Nick has inadvertently put in danger by selling his heist plans to the wrong people. Nick and Cate must go on the run from the cartel and a group of other bad guys (led by Bill Paxton) and rely on the help of former criminals Harper (Jonathan Banks) and Jimmy (Vaughn’s longtime buddy and collaborator, Jon Favreau) to avoid being caught.
If not for the stellar cast (which also features Terrence Howard, Annabeth Gish, Taraji P. Henson, and Mike Epps in supporting roles), this one would have gone straight to the aforementioned home video destinations. Vaughn is always a pleasure to watch and he does just fine playing a non-comedic version of his usual self with a weird haircut. Banks does his best not to be Mike Ehrmantraut, and mostly succeeds (he’s less grumpy and doesn’t have that signature tic), but otherwise his character isn’t much of a variation on Mike. Steinfeld is a dependably good actress and does a fine job here, too. Director (Ralphie) Peter Billingsley’s style is very literal/workmanlike and well-suited to this script.
In all, “Term Life” is a fairly by-the-numbers thriller that doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense but is a pleasant enough way to pass the time.