Date: 03 December 2001
Mr David Mamet used to be a very exciting director. His films, most usually centering around charming confidence trickster anti-heroes (admittedly always men), always make the dialogue the star, more like plays in fact, and always keep your brain ticking over. House of Games was the classic example, Glengarry Glenn Ross another. But Heist doesn't work.
Fundamentally, the casting is crap. Gene Hackman is a great actor, and used to be a fine character actor, but now, unfortunately, he's just Gene Hackman. The name's too big for a Mamet film, and the role, old thief who can win out against the odds using brain not brawn, is pure Hollywood. He says the Mamet lines, but you're just thinking: hmmm, this is Gene Hackman in a David Mamet film. His girl, a feisty Rebecca Pidgeon, has more character in her legs than her personality, and can only talk in one-liners. She might be good running for president or something. Danny Devito as the 4 foot high bad guy completes the mess and though the dialogue contains a fair sprinkling of Mamet's usual cleverness, it can't save a dull plot.
There's a couple of good scenes: one where the police are chasing them and crew member Pinky (Ricky Jay - who comes out of it OK even though his role is exactly the same as that in H. of Games) calmly walks out in front of the police car and gets run over, enabling escape. Hackman turns to one of his heist men and says, 'is he ok?' to which the reply is 'oh yeah, he's just doing the car thing again'. Pinky gets up and has a slight limp for the remainder.
And the final heist scene is fantastic, involving an aeroplane full of swiss gold. But the ending returns us to Mamet's apparent 'Hollywood Turn' again with a cliched shoot-out. And the other thing is that all the actors keep saying 'this is the thing' or 'is that the thing?', over and over, just like in all of Mamet's other films. Which kind of spoils your memory of the other films when you thought it quite cool to talk about 'the thing'.
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