Retro Review: The Good Thief

Nick Nolte plays Bob Montagnet, a France-based thief on his last legs, pursuing hopefully his last great heist and trying to get his good luck back. In pursuit of Bob and his crew is crafty police detective, Roger (Tcheky Karyo) who wants nothing more than to watch Bob squirm and eventually slip up.

Bob’s weakest link could be his rescuing of crack-addicted 17-year old Russian prostitute, Anne (newcomer Nutsa Kukhianidze). Anne will do or say almost anything for a smoke. Will Anne be Bob’s pitfall before redemption? Can Bob give Roger the slip and get away with the biggest heist ever to hit Monte Carlo?

“The Good Thief” is surprisingly, a very effective and entertaining game of cat and mouse. The problem is that it takes way to long to get going. The first 35-40 minutes drag on and you never know exactly know where Neil Jordan is taking us. The whole sub-plot involving Anne gets old very quickly as the audience loses interest in her hopeless situation. What does she have to do with the grand heist? Is she just a pawn Bob is dangling in front of Roger?

What I really enjoyed about the “Good Thief” was the performances of both Karyo and Nolte. Karyo continues to be one of the most used character actors in Hollywood but has never gotten a lot of recognition. He has such range and brilliant screen charisma. Karyo is a gem in the making. You also forget how brilliant Nolte is until you see this picture. You have to learn to understand his moaning and deep dialogue but once you understand its like you are a code-breaker who just cracked the biggest code of your life. Nolte hasn’t been this so out of character and so good in so long.

The film also feels a lot like a Roman Polanski film in a lot of ways. The rugged hero, waif teenage girl, exotic European locales and of course a crime or mystery are all elements of vintage Polanski. Or was I thinking Nabokov. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot of elements of other directors in this piece but Jordan does cobble it together very well.

I did like the portrayal of Anne by actress Nutsa Kukhianidze but I couldn’t get over her uncanny resemblance to actress Moira Kelly circa “The Cutting Edge”. Her performance is very raw and unforgiving. It is so very powerful it is no wonder the audience gives up on her as a lost cause.

“The Good Thief” is a gem waiting to be unlocked if you can get through the film’s first 35 minutes.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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