Heist Movie Review

One would think there could be no way to freshen up a plot as shopworn as the "one last big heist before retirement." By all rights, this should be the stuff of straight-to-video B movies by now.

But this year has seen three such pictures so intelligent, intricate and resourceful that by their very diversity they prove there's a lot of life left in the genre -- if a movie is in the right hands.

Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando staged a break-in at the Montreal Customs House in thrilling, high-gloss "The Score." Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone faced off as rival cockney toughs working a bank job in the edgy, oily "Sexy Beast." And now comes "Heist" -- a gritty, exhilaratingly tense thriller that benefits from a most elaborate array of rapid-fire twists and the sharp, delicious, cadence of dialogue by writer-director David Mamet.

The film opens with the precision burglary of a high-end jeweler's by a well-oiled team of professional thieves. One, posing as a cafe waitress, slips mickeys into the store's daily cappuccino order. Another drops a small bomb in a trash can a half-block away, causing a distraction. Three of them then invade the store, setting a timer for four minutes (presumably the anticipated police response time) then busting display cases and picking safes in a pressure-cooker scene made all the more intense by the fact that the heist's mastermind (Gene Hackman) comes face-to-face with a hidden camera. He spends his four minutes trying to bust through the steel-reinforced cage around the security system's VCRs.

Regrouping after delivering the goods to their fence (Danny DeVito), Hackman realizes: "I got my picture taken. It's time to check out." But DeVito dupes him. He won't pay Hackman's crew until they do one more job that makes the jewelry store look like a cakewalk.

Mamet's dexterous cast absorbs itself in cogent, enigmatic performances that have you wondering every minute whom to trust. Double-crosses and manifold plot manipulations accumulate in a domino effect so exhaustingly swift and shrewd that your brain is too stimulated to think about loopholes -- and there are most definitely loopholes -- until the movie's already over.

Hackman is subtly spectacular as the haggard but resilient career thief with plans to literally sail off into the sunset on his custom boat packed with bullion booty from "the Swiss thing" -- the multifarious, daring and incredibly detailed cargo plane heist assigned by DeVito and in the works throughout the picture.

Mamet's wife, muse and often stilted leading lady Rebecca Pidgeon gives a standout performance as Hackman's Machiavellian girlfriend, a smoky, sultry tomboy-tough siren of a femme fatale. Sam Rockwell ("Charlie's Angels") is perfectly cast as DeVito's high strung, slimeball nephew who comes so close to blowing the gang's cover that a convoluted plan is concocted to get him out of the picture. The terrifically imposing Delroy Lindo and Mamet regular Ricky Jay are strong as well, playing the two partners Hackman trusts implicitly.

The most fascinating thing about all these characters is that when they've been swindled, they don't waste an ounce of energy dwelling on it or getting angry -- they immediately start scheming their retaliation and reclamation. It's all part of the business. Such interpersonal machination is exactly why Mamet's handiwork makes "Heist" so invigorating.

If there is a problem with the film, it's that the twists come so fast and furiously that after an hour of screen time, they're old hat. You become so used to second-guessing everyone and everything that all the surprises lose their punch -- most of all the anti-climactic surprise ending.

But that fact doesn't diminish the Mamet's ability to stimulate the intellect throughout the picture, and especially as the big score unfolds in all its exquisite complexity.

Comments

Heist Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, Opened: Friday, November 9, 2001

Advertisement

More Gene Hackman

The Top 10 Movies Directed By Clint Eastwood

Having first installed himself within American culture with his recurring role as Rowdy Yates in the cowboy seriesRawhide, San Francisco native Clint Eastwood would become...

Elmore Leonard Dies Aged 87 - 'Justified' Cast Pay Tribute

Elmore Leonard, the crime novelist, died yesterday morning (20th August) of complications following a stroke. Leonard wrote such stories as Get Shorty and 3:10 to...

'I'll Eat You Last' Sees Beth Midler At Her Very Best As The Witty And Cynical Sue Mengers

Bette Midler is Sue Mengers. In I’ll Eat You Last, the funny, outspoken actress plays the infamous 70s talent agent with such clarity and wit,...

William Friedkin Book Reveals Struggles With Al Pacino, Gene Hackman

William Friedkin’s career rose to pretty heady heights in the 1970s, with the highly revered French Connection, followed by The Exorcist – one of the...

Advertisement

A Jamie Foxx As Electro Inspired Top 5 Superhero Villains!

With Jamie Foxx’s heavily rumoured inclusion in The Amazing Spiderman 2, we’ve racked our brains, and think he’ll do well to get...

Gene Hackman Donated Clothes To The Homeless Man He Slapped

Actor Gene Hackman had given clothes, money and the odd ride to the homeless man he slapped in New Mexico this week, Fox News reports....

Gene Hackman had provided clothes for homeless man he slapped

Gene Hackman knew the homeless man that he slapped on a downtown Santa Fe street this week, according to The New Mexican newspaper. Police reports...

A Week In News Featuring: Star Wars, Hurricane Sandy, Skyfall, Taylor Swift, Tom Cruise, Lindsay Lohan, Anderson Cooper and much more

The Dark Side? Star Wars fans are split as to the suitability of the franchise’s new home at Disney? What we do know is that...

Advertisement