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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Heist

Starring: Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito
Director: David Mamet
Rated: R
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: November 2001
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Delroy Lindo, Ricky Jay, Christian Maguire, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Kaldor, Rebecca Pidgeon

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

"Heist" is obviously the story of robbery but far more important it is an exploration of relationships. The most interesting of these connections is between two scam artists, Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) and his wife Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon). Why so? Because of the age difference of this apparently loving couple, a great many moviegoers might assume that Fran could bolt the marriage if a colorful young dude should come along--and this possibility becomes all too likely when another scammer, the mustachioed and slick Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell), arrives on the scene and does in fact have a fling with her (which is merely hinted as he begins ripping off her clothes with no resistance from her and the camera exits). Since "Heist" deals with double-crosses and triple-crosses forming twists galore, there is every reason to believe that if this youthful presence makes off with the stash, leaving Joe in the dirt, the marriage would go to pot. This is what the audience must ponder in a caper story that not only has a terrific cast but is written and directed by the awesome David Mamet, whose theatrical penchant for sharp, cutting dialogue gives the picture its edge.

The heist in question is so complex, so dependent on each character's bringing off his or her part, that we have to wonder about the risks that ensemble are taking--to say nothing of the possibilities of betrayals which are so frequent in real life when more than two people are involved in a crime. After Joe and his wife Fran together with their long-time partner Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo) pull off a job in a jewelry store, they discover that for some convoluted reason the mastermind who laid out the money for the trucks and tools, Bergman (Danny DeVito), will pay for the fenced gems only if Joe and company will pull off another job, a big one. Though Joe wants nothing more than to retire to warm climes with his wife Fran, he doesn't want to leave without money and accepts an assignment to steal gold bars from a Swiss-bound cargo plane.

What's intriguing about the movie is that this is not a cookie- cutter Hollywood gangster tale full of shoot-ups and explosions-- though there is one blast and one stylized shootout. We watch this skilled team at work and admire the timing and intricate planning of professionals, who go through the detailed motions of the robbery using sets of false costumes and covering their bases, including the false New Zealand passports which one of Bobby's contacts made for Joe and Fran. The bad apple here is Jimmy, who is unwillingly taken into the group because Bergman wants his nephew to guard against double-crosses. A womanizer who repeatedly comes on to Fran and a guy who seems not to be playing with all his marbles, the slimy Jimmy is so amateurish that in the audience are sure that something will go wrong--particularly in creating animosity with Fran's husband.

The caper is so fascinating in its chess-like moves that it's a pity Mamet could not pull out the stops with his famous dialogue. Notwithstanding the fun of "Heist," this cannot hold a candle to the exploration of scammers in Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross," his best film and one that deals with what probably goes on in many commission-based businesses today. Nor does the cast match up to the crackerjack performers in his 1987 pic, "House of Games," which starred Mamet's first wife, Lindsay Crouse and also Joe Mantegna and Mike Nussbaum, with only Ricky Jay appearing in both films.

"Heist' is stunningly shot by photographer Robert Elswit in Montreal, standing in for the New England area where Joe Moore lovingly builds boats, and in one scene a truck has Vermont license plates--perhaps an homage that Mamet pays to Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont where the writer remained for several years as an artist-in-residence.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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