Rob Cohen’s ‘The Hurricane Heist’ explores climate change

Photo courtesy of Ryan Venezia
Weathering the storm · The Hurricane Heist tells the story of a heist being pulled off in the middle of a hurricane. Director Rob Cohen has worked on movies such as The Fast and the Furious and xXx.

With over 25 credits to his name, including The Fast and the Furious and xXx: State of the Union, director Rob Cohen returns to the silver screen with The Hurricane Heist, a thrilling action movie about a multimillion-dollar heist that occurs in the midst of a category-5 hurricane. The film is an addition to Cohen’s long list of action movies, a genre he came to love during his brief stint with Miami Vice.

“When I got to direct that show, with its guns, cool clothes, tough guys, beautiful women and fast cars, I fell in love with the genre and from that point on my heroes became guys like Walter Hill,” Cohen said.

Despite the glamorous allure of the genre, however, Cohen made clear that at the core of The Hurricane Heist was a potent message about the dangerous implications of climate change. Though the film began production in 2016, prior to last year’s tragic string of hurricanes, Cohen knew from the start that he wanted the film’s political undertones to be evident.

“In creating the character of the meteorologist, I really wanted to him to say, in no uncertain terms, that climate change is why these hurricanes are so bad and they’re going to get worse if we don’t do something,” Cohen said. “This is more important to say it now than in any other time in history; if you can get people to think about these issues through an action movie, then so be it.”

Like its underlying message, The Hurricane Heist embodies darkness in its visuals, the inspiration for which came to Cohen through footage of real hurricanes. The chaotic natural atmosphere, though stylistically appropriate, posed challenges for the actors on set.

“I said to the actors when I hired them that what they were reading was what I was going to do onscreen,” Cohen said. “I said, ‘If you accept this part, just know that you’re going to go to work every day and you’re going to be windblown, wind-burned, wet to your core, cold, miserable, but you’re going to be able to create a really memorable character.’”

Cohen also said that he was most proud of the 12-minute truck sequences that constitute the climax of the film: “That was really balls to the wall to shoot,” he chuckled.

The challenges of the action-packed shoot, however, were part of a larger learning experience for Cohen, who approaches each film with the curiosity of a student.

“I specifically take on projects that will stretch me,” he said. “What’s evolved for me in my filmmaking process is just the feeling that I want to push myself and keep evolving and keep being a pupil of the discipline and process of creating.”

Regarding the current state of the entertainment industry, Cohen remarked that he was happy to see the #MeToo movement take place.

“To see these guys who are widely known as practitioners of power politics and sex be outed was good,” Cohen said. “Now, these issues are so well-documented that a lot of people who might have that proclivity [to harass] will not give into it because they know they will be finished as they should be.”

Cohen offered surprising advice for aspiring filmmakers: Don’t watch movies.

“Go live your life,” Cohen said. “You can tell the difference between people who make movies that are regurgitations of other movies and people who come to films with a great deal of originality. I urge filmmakers to spend their time traveling, learning, reading rather than watching and trying to remember how this guy did a tracking shot in 1943.”

The Hurricane Heist is slated for release on Friday.