How to Rob a Bank follows in the tradition of other heist movies, but despite the state-of-the-art improvements, this potential sleeper becomes a muddled snoozer.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” cries out Jinx Taylor (Nick Stahl) amidst the chaos caused by a bank robbery masterminded by a criminal named Simon (Gavin Rossdale). Apparently, Jinx was innocently questioning a surcharge on his ATM withdrawal when Simon shanghaied him into stealing a fortune from the bank’s vault as hostages were ordered to lie on the floor of the lobby. Jinx’s unexpected “accomplice” is a young woman, Jessica (Erika Christensen), hired by Simon to decode the bank’s security system.

While Jinx and Jessica find themselves trapped in the vault, they try to figure out their best course of action. They negotiate their options (through a cell-phone) by talking to both Simon in the lobby and police officer DeGepse (Terry Crews) outside the bank. An exit plan emerges in the form of a surprise caller named Nick (David Carradine). Using Nick as a secret collaborator, Jinx and Jessica outwit Simon and the police and figure out their own way “how to rob a bank.”

Writer-director Andrews Jenkins unabashedly reveals his affection for the caper films of yore, including Topkapi and Dog Day Afternoon and even the more recent Quick Change and Bottle Rocket. What is missing from his film are moments of both true suspense and comic relief. Most of the film stays gravely serious, yet it never captures the excitement and danger of the situation. There are so many lengthy, talky scenes in the vault between Stahl and Christensen, you forget there is a robbery and police standoff happening simultaneously outside the vault walls; the film feels much longer than its 81-minute running time.

The underlying social commentary regarding middle-class economic rebellion was better expressed in Fun with Dick and Jane (at least the 1977 version), though at least How to Rob a Bank deserves credit for trying to say something.

In his feature debut, Jenkins’ high-tech visual style masks his low-budget production, but it also becomes annoying—the shock-cuts, fast-motion photography, computer graphics and declarative musical score distract rather than enhance the storytelling.

The cast is barely adequate, though it’s hard to blame them. Stahl looks as confused as his character, Christensen comes off like a junior-miss Julia Stiles, Crews and rock singer Rossdale overact wildly, and Carradine literally phones in his performance.

How to Rob a Bank? How Not to Make a Movie.