This year already gave us one good old-fashioned caper film with “The Score,” and now we get a second one: “Heist,” which is good, old-fashioned, and a caper film that has no pretenses about being anything else.
That being the case, you wonder why it’s not a little better. Without all the importance or dramatic depth of a “serious” film getting in the way, writer/director David Mamet ought to have found more fun in the twists and turns of a genre flick. “Heist” is a kick to watch, but it feels like it could have been more — especially from a brilliant writer like Mamet.
Gene Hackman — whom I have never not loved in a movie — plays aging thief Joe Moore, described as being “so cool, when he goes to sleep, sheep count him.” Having been observed accidentally by a surveillance camera during a recent robbery, he is eager now to retire with his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) and his beautiful boat.
However, as is generally the case in movies with titles like “Heist,” Joe must do One Last Job. Making it even more complicated, he and his partners, Bobby (Delroy Lindo) and Pinky (Ricky Jay), are saddled with the green nephew (Sam Rockwell) of their fence (Danny DeVito).
The job involves stealing gold from a cargo plane, though we don’t know that for a while. For even longer, we don’t know where the gold has actually wound up. Mamet seems to take great delight in folding the movie on top of itself again and again: Someone gets double-crossed and then double-crosses someone else, who turns out to have been triple-crossing everyone all along. It becomes predictable after a while. We start waiting uneasily for a scene to finish and a character to walk away feeling good about having screwed everyone, just so we can hear the other characters let on that they, in fact, are the ones who screwed him. You can only ride a roller coaster so many times before the track becomes too familiar.
The acting is splendid throughout, with the notable exception of Rebecca Pidgeon. As I observed with “State & Main,” it is ironic that David Mamet’s own wife would be the WORST one at making his dialogue sound natural. You hate to be gossipy and suggest she keeps getting roles in his movies only because she’s his wife, but I can think of a dozen actresses just off the top of my head who would have been better in this femme fatale-ish role, and who could have spoken the dialogue better.
“Heist” is full of that classic Mamet-style dialogue, including a description of Joe’s wife as being so slick, “she could talk her way out of a sunburn.” That puts it a cut above most caper films, which tend to eschew the sort of verbal elegance Mamet embraces. “Heist” is less than the sum of its parts, but its parts are fun to watch.
B- (; )