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HEIST(director/writer: David Mamet; cinematographer: Robert Elswit; editor: Barbara Tulliver; music: Theodore Shapiro; cast: Gene Hackman (Joe), Rebecca Pidgeon (Fran), Danny Devito (Bergman), Delroy Lindo (Bobby), Ricky Jay (“Pinky”), Sam Rockwell (Jimmy Silk), Patti LuPone (Betty Croft); Runtime: 109; Warner Brothers; 2001)
“This was another familiar formulaic heist movie…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This was another familiar formulaic heist movie with nothing much new to offer this genre; it’s another final-big-score picture. In this one an aging master thief has to deal with a not to be trusted youngster who is forced onto his reliable crew of thieves. The main theme will be about loyalty. Ho-hum! It’s a tepid Mamet by-the-numbers film, occasioned by many witticisms, sharp dialogue delivered in a rapidly staccato beat, multiple plot twists by the way of many double-crosses, and a further glorification of thieves who steal because they greedily want the money. It all adds up to escapist hokum, a film that is brain dead, vacuous, and tired looking. The only question that remains is not if the master thief Joe (Hackman) will get away with the money, but will you be entertained by this phony crime story and all the empty characters who participate in the crime of the day. As for me, I found it a bore. The only thing that kept me awake was the many throwaway lines such as: “The heist is as cute as a Chinese baby.” Hackman saying “You can’t live for ever,” while the miscast femme fatale, Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon -Mamet’s wife), comments “Frank Sinatra gave it a shot.” And, with the noted playwright Mamet’s gift for the vernacular comes these gems: “Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money.” When asked if Joe is cool, a henchman replies, “He’s so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him.” These kind of lines keep coming throughout the film, and are what give this routine caper a mild breeze.

Joe, an expressive professional thief, lives in Maine and builds boats as a legitimate cover for his criminal activities. The film opens with his crew, which includes his hustler wife Fran, ex-felon Bobby (Delroy Lindo), and good natured con man Pinky (Ricky Jay). They are seen taking down a jewelry house in NYC by using diversionary tactics to keep the police away and drugging the employees inside the jewelry store. A woman employee mistakenly doesn’t get drugged by Fran, and she gets to see Joe without his mask. He’s also captured in video by a security camera. This makes Joe say retirement, as he brings the jewels for his cut to his fence and money-man Bergman (DeVito), the one who set this deal up.

But the slimy and vicious Bergman refuses to pay Joe, saying he promised him one more job: “the Swiss job.” The two haggle, but Joe realizes he can’t go to South America without the dough. So they cut a bargain: Joe splits the heist money at the conclusion of “the Swiss job” on the site while Bergman has his cocky nephew, a young loose cannon named Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell), who needles the older Hackman and makes a play for his wife, become part of the crew for this complex heist.

The plot revolves around who will succeed in their double-cross plan Jimmy Silk or Joe? That is, Who will get the gold and/or the girl? I bet if you think real hard you’ll guess right.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”