ECHO BOOMERS doesn’t care for the Baby Boomer generation, but it doesn’t care much for Millennials either. It’s no coincidence that the film uses the term “Echo Boomers” to describe Millennials rather than the more common parlance. This heist thriller-cum-study in generational angst sees Millennials as whiny clones of their parents: according to the film, they have just as much of Boomers’ “screw you, I got mine” selfishness with added helpings of pretension and shortsightedness. Director Seth Savoy and his co-writers Kevin Bernhardt and Jason Miller take a jaundiced view of Millennials with a film that wants to have its cake and eat it too.
Lance (Patrick Schwarzenegger) is a college graduate drowning in student loan debt and struggling to find work at an art gallery. He faces a dilemma familiar to many Millennials: he doesn’t have enough experience for even entry-level jobs in his field but he’s overqualified for food service jobs that would help him pay his bills. It’s a depressing Catch-22 that most viewers will recognize: you’re either too qualified or not qualified enough, and the only way to get experience is to already have experience. When Lance finally lands a job offer at a gallery, the manager tells him it’s a minimum wage gig and then lectures him about the importance of paying your dues and working your way up. Thus ECHO BOOMERS lays the groundwork for Lance’s disillusionment with “the system,” peppering in news reports about economic recessions and disaffected Millennials to drive the point home further.
Enter Jack (Gilles Geary), Lance’s cousin who has a job proposition for him. Though Jack is initially vague on the details, telling Lance that the job is in “acquisitions,” Lance soon learns that Jack is a member of a burglary crew who needs Lance’s art expertise to identify valuable pieces in the homes that they ransack. The crew doesn’t just rob the obscene mansions, though; they completely destroy them, attacking every single item that they leave behind with knives, bats, and lighters. The crew has a message, you see…they’re not just robbing people for fun and profit, they’re also making a statement. As more and more money becomes concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people, the crew asserts that it’s immoral and unethical for these Boomers to be so wealthy. The film wants the viewer to believe that Lance buys into this argument, but it can’t stop contradicting itself long enough to make that happen.
Criticizing the excesses of late-stage capitalism is a valid point and becomes increasingly relevant every day, especially as poor people face evictions and lack of healthcare in the middle of a global pandemic while billionaires make so much money that a single day’s worth of profits could solve those problems. ECHO BOOMERS doesn’t really seem interested in this critique, though. Jack pays lip service to the ideals of redistributing wealth unfairly hoarded by the 1%, but the film depicts his philosophy as shallow and disingenuous at every turn. Jack is supposed to be a friend to the downtrodden and a champion of the working class, but when he treats Lance to a nice meal, he abuses the waiter out of disdain for his station in life. Then they go out to get fitted for $6,000 suits. Despite his sociopolitical pontificating, Jack has no interest in helping anyone but himself.
The film unfolds from within the framing device of a prison interview — the viewer isn’t sure at first how many members of the crew got caught, but it’s obvious from the very beginning that Lance is narrating from behind bars. He dispenses judgment against the other members of the crew to the interviewer, sounding every bit a deceptively youthful Boomer. He calls the burglary crew “artists of destruction” who in a matter of hours can “tear down what it took someone else years to build up.” In one sentence Lance cuts down the argument he supposedly bought into, that the megarich Boomers they stole from didn’t actually earn their wealth. Lance is often stiff and condescending, but never more than when he derisively tells the interviewer that the crew spent the cash they made from the burglaries as soon as they got it: “Their money didn’t go towards savings or 401(k)s…they thought the well would never run dry.”
Lance is the weakest link of the film, which is unfortunate given that he’s the main character. His character makes little sense and Schwarzenegger doesn’t give him enough of a personality to make the viewer forgive the mixed messages. Michael Shannon is one of the few saving graces as Mel, the crew’s boss who sells the stolen goods overseas and then gives the young burglars a small cut of the profits. Shannon is terrific as always, giving Mel a cagey, smoldering menace that keeps the viewer on high alert the entire time he’s on screen. His character is underused, though, as ECHO BOOMERS misses an opportunity to explore the dynamic between Mel and his young crew. Even though the Millennials are living outside of the system and sticking it to The Man, they still work for a white male Boomer who pays them less than what they’re owed and calls them ungrateful if they ask for more money. For all its talk about generation gaps, the movie doesn’t seem very interested in exploring the irony that no matter what Lance does he can’t get away from a system designed to keep him under- or unemployed.
Herein lies the major problem with ECHO BOOMERS: it sets up conflicts and espouses ideals then explores them as shallowly as possible or simply discards them. The characters repeatedly mention generation gaps, but when it comes down to it, the film doesn’t seem to see much difference between Baby Boomers and Millennials: according to the film, they’re all selfish and materialistic. It would be intriguing to explore the idea that Boomers and their offspring aren’t the real problem…the system needs to change, not the people struggling to live within it. ECHO BOOMERS doesn’t engage with that idea, though. It prefers party montages and facile psychoanalysis to an in-depth look at class issues in America, leaving viewers wondering who this film is for and what it’s really trying to say.
ECHO BOOMERS is now in theaters, On Demand and Digital. Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: Nightmarish Conjurings doesn’t endorse seeing movies in theaters at this time due to the pandemic. Please consider VOD and/or Drive-In options and, if you go to the theater, please be safe.