Retro Review: Heist

Screenwriter extraordinaire David Mamet brings his writing touches to the world of thievery.

Mamet collects an assortment of characters that only seem to want to retire after their leader, Joe Moore (Gene Hackman), is identified by a surveillance camera during their latest heist. Joe finishes the heist in disgrace and reports back to Bergman (Danny DeVito), a vicious crime lord. Joe pleads that their latest heist was the last for his crew but Bergman thinks otherwise. It seems that Bergman wants the crew to pull off a huge heist known as the “Swiss thing”. Bergman refuses to pay Joe and insists his cocky nephew, Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) must accompany Joe on the “Swiss thing”.

It looks like Joe has no choice but to do the job and find a way to retire. But with the cocky Jimmy Silk tagging along, Joe may wind up dead instead of retired.

“Heist” is one of those thief-dramas that takes itself overly seriously and relies heavily on its style and dialogue. This was very evident in films like “The Score” which debuted earlier this year.

Mamet has always relied on his dialogue to plug plot holes, bad acting and long drawn out scenes but in “Heist” his technique doesn’t hide those obvious flaws. There is some clever humor and ranting but for the first half of the film it’s like watching a glob of molasses droop out of a measuring cup as you pour. Mamet really doesn’t bring the audience in soon enough to allow connection to the characters. In some scenes we really aren’t even sure what the crew is even talking about.

Gene Hackman is very good as the crew’s patriarch but the role almost feels like a Clint Eastwood one. Danny DeVito is ruthless and playing a character he was made to play. You gotta love DeVito when he is in his element.

Sam Rockwell of “Galaxy Quest” and “Made” seems out of his element, as he squares off against a heavy hitter like Hackman. He does ooze the right amount of slime. It’s how his character is written, not Rockwell’s acting, that makes his character a formidable adversary.

Rebecca Pidgeon, who plays Hackman’s wife in the film, plays her character with a very in-depth edge that really makes her a scene-stealer.

Delroy Lindo and Ricky Jay are just window-dressing. The acting and second half of the film is first-rate as Mamet delivers some twists and turns. These points do beg the question; doesn’t every thief film end with this kind of stuff?

I am a fan of Mamet with “The Spanish Prisoner” coming in as my favorite with “State and Main” a close second but “Heist” doesn’t really live up to what fans are coming to expect from Mr. Mamet.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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