A Ghostly Bank Heist Starring James Franco

An indie criminal thriller goes macabre in Dan Bush’s uneven The Vault. Subverting the usual bank-heist-gone-wrong formula, the movie stars James Franco, Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood. The reasonably entertaining thriller fails to deliver on its early promise with a surprising but meek turn into horror territory. The Vault is a heist film at its core, more worried about its criminal protagonists than the supernatural scares it musters up.

The initial premise will be familiar to most movie fans. A small band of desperate criminals take over a bank, looking for a big score and hoping to get out of there before the cops show up. The Vault is mostly a crime caper flick with a dash of horror to spice up the plot. We’ve seen this premise before in various forms.

Two bickering sisters played by Francesca Eastwood and Taryn Manning lead a team of criminals running a bank heist for their brother Michael’s sake. Michael (Scott Haze) is in trouble and needs money fast, or bad things will happen. Michael isn’t like the others robbing the bank, constantly reminding everyone he doesn’t want anyone getting hurt. Their backstory as a family really isn’t the movie’s strongest suit. The actors overcome the sketchy backstory with strong performances that play off each other.

…mostly a crime caper flick with a dash of horror to spice up the plot

Things quickly go south for the intrepid criminals soon after they take over the bank and secure it from outside interference. Desperate for cash, they get greedy when their initial score is far less than expected. A bank employee played by James Franco suggests they break into the older vault in the basement, which stores millions. The criminals’ plans go up in smoke when police surround the bank and demand they free the hostages.

This is where the straightforward thriller begins a turn towards the supernatural. The biggest problem here is that The Vault teases more than it delivers. Director Dan Bush allows only the briefest of glimpses into what’s happening as the bank robbers break into the basement vault and get caught up in something beyond their control. This may very well have been shaped by a limited budget. It appears the indie thriller’s budget went into the cast and not into the movie’s infrequent supernatural frights. Appearing only briefly on screen, there isn’t much room for elaborate FX. What is seen is marginally effective, but a letdown in the end.

Despite an intriguing premise and solid cast, The Vault is less than the sum of its parts. Francesca Eastwood gives it her all in an emotional performance. Her character as the tough but fragile sister under pressure to save her brother is the most sympathetic. Franco is Franco, a competent performer who doesn’t hurt the movie. If anything, Franco’s role may have been better suited to a relatively unknown character actor. The star’s mere presence signals the character is important from the beginning.


Made in 2017, The Vault hits Blu-ray with a rather modern cinema aesthetic that doesn’t color outside the lines visually. The 2.40:1 scope presentation has a few small lapses in picture quality but largely satisfies with clean, crisp clarity. Its 1080P video exudes sharpness in close-ups and solid definition in wider shots. The AVC encode isn’t perfect, introducing banding and minor compression issues. It is a serviceable effort on a BD-25 with adequate parameters.

Taken from a digital intermediate, The Vault on Blu-ray doesn’t introduce substantial issues worth discussing in a fine video transfer. Darker shots have a bit more noise and less delineation. The digital color grading doesn’t pump up the contrast or dial up the highlights. The color palette is fairly neutral and balanced, if not quite the rich saturation offered up by action blockbusters.


Lossy-only audio options come in serviceable 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks. The surround mix isn’t hugely active for a thriller with horror action. The movie’s fairly limited audio design has adequate separation and mildly discrete effects. Dialogue is cleanly heard over the elements and the score has decent dynamics. The lossy quality isn’t a real problem, though it would have been sweet to hear Tommy James and the Shondells’ classic Crimson and Clover in fully lossless fidelity. That song plays over the opening credits. I’m not sure as to what that means for the movie.

Optional English SDH plays in a white font outside the scope presentation.


The 2017 production was originally issued on a BD-R. FilmRise initially released many of their movies this way before using MVD Visual as a distributor. Now The Vault comes out in this reissue as an actual pressed BD.

As seen below, nothing extra is provided beyond the trailer.

The Vault Trailer (01:56 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Vault
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A bank heist thriller that takes a left turn into horror and the supernatural with mixed results.

User Review
5 (1 vote)

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