‘Heist’: Has Robert De Niro ever been worse?

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What a pile of garbage.

Robert De Niro is one of the greatest actors the movie universe has ever known — but when he’s bad he’s painfully bad, and it’s hard to recall a more terrible performance in De Niro’s career than his weirdly off-key work in “Heist.”

Even De Niro’s hair, jewelry and wardrobe miss the mark in this ugly, vile, stilted and dopey thriller. If it were possible for cuff links to give a bad performance, they’re doing just that in this film.

When “Heist” was known as “Bus 657” and was shopped around at the Cannes Film Festival, an article in The Wrap said it was “described as a mix of ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ and ‘Speed’ ” — and indeed this thrill-free thriller DOES rip off those films, but with a complete and astonishing lack of style.

De Niro plays The Pope, because that way we know he’s in charge. He’s a very, very, very bad man who runs a casino and is involved in all sorts of dirty dealing.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is Vaughn, who works at the casino and comes to The Pope asking for a favor, i.e., some $300,000 to pay the medical bills for Vaughn’s dying daughter. I mean, this is what we’re dealing with here.

The Pope says no to Vaughn’s request. A desperate Vaughn hatches a truly stupid plan to rip off The Pope’s casino. Cue the medium-grade action sequences and the horrendous plot twists.

After the heist goes horribly wrong and we’re subjected to a soundtrack more annoying than late summer bees buzzing in your ear, Vaughn and his Neanderthal partner-in-crime Cox (a loud, abrasive, irritating Dave Bautista, turning in one of the worst acting jobs in recent memory) hijack a bus.

From that point forward, “Heist” goes from lousy to even worse. The screenplay is so clunky, not a single cast member manages to sound believable. Familiar, likable actors from Kate Bosworth to Gina Carano to Morris Chestnut are buried under an avalanche of awful.

You’ve been warned.

Zero stars

Lionsgate Premiere presents a film directed by Scott Mann and written by Stephen Cyrus Sepher and Max S. Adams. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated R (for violence, pervasive language and some sexual content). Opens Friday at Chatham 14 and on demand.

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