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Warner Brothers
Official Site
Director: David Mamet
Producers: Art Linson, Elie Samaha, Andrew Stevens
Written by: David Mamet
Cast: Delroy Lindo, Ricky Jay, Gene Hackman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Sam Rockwell, Patti Lupone, Danny DeVito

Rating: out of 5

I am one happy viewer. What with THE SCORE coming out a little while ago, HEIST now, and OCEANS 11 a couple of weeks away, the caper-picture fan has renewed hope for the cinematic future. Yeah, I know, I didn’t exactly cover THE SCORE with laurels, but even a flawed example of the genre makes me tap my toes. So let’s get down to cases on HEIST, a movie written by David Mamet, and directed by David Mamet, for David Mamet fans.

First of all, you can count me as a Mamet fan. As far as I’m concerned, this guy’s been on a hell of a roll (most recently with THE SPANISH PRISONER, THE WINSLOW BOY, and STATE & MAIN). That said, I have to admit that HEIST doesn’t quite live up to those films. Though I was vastly entertained in the theater, thank goodness I took notes, because the movie—how shall we say?—barely lingers on the palate.

It has real Mamet-style dialogue, including what’s now number one on my hit parade of all-time great lines (“My motherfucker’s so cool, when they want to sleep, sheep count him,” delivered by a laconic Ricky Jay.) This stylized Mametian language and delivery—either you dig it or you don’t. If you don’t, well you probably really don’t, and HEIST isn’t on your must-see list anyway. But even if you do, this time out, the Mamet argot is a little jarring. I think it’s because the movie is set in the present, but the terminology of the professional thieves here sounds very retro, and relies on a few terms that are used repeatedly and gratingly. I found myself gratefully relaxing from that during a RIFIFI homage where the thieves went about their larcenous work with absolutely no dialogue at all.

HEIST is about what 90% of heist movies are about: Some pro wants to walk away from the business, but must first do that one last job. As always, there’s a great deal of pleasure to be had from watching the research, planning, and execution of the job (though scenes where airport security is nimbly outfoxed may be uncomfortable for some to watch). And as usual, these thieves are electronics whizzes, demolitions experts, professional metallurgists, and possess such a host of other technical skills that one begins to suspect that this stealing is too fucking much like real work.

It’s also enjoyable to see this re-teaming of several members of the GET SHORTY cast. Note the order of the cast, above. Remember the kick in the ass that was Delroy Lindo’s electrifying performance as West Indian Archie in MALCOLM X? The early promise is more than fulfilled. Lindo walks off with this show, giving the best performance in the film, and not incidentally showing himself to be an excellent interpreter of Mamet. (I think that, just as singers interpret jazz standards, so actors either are or are not successfully able to interpret Mamet). Let’s hope Lindo becomes a member of Mamet’s regular troupe. And speaking of Mamet regulars, HEIST gives the marvelous Ricky Jay a chance to show what he’s made of, and is he ever made of mighty good stuff. His Pinky is the kind of competent, quiet, speaks-when-necessary crook who’s even cooler because he doesn’t need to do anything to prove his cool to you. Plus, Jay writes really fine books. On the other hand, Mr. DeVito... Sigh. DeVito really shines in controlled performances—see GET SHORTY, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, and the criminally under-seen, underappreciated LIVING OUT LOUD—which means he doesn’t shine here, where traces of BATMAN baddie Oswald Cobblepot slip into his performance.

What caper flick worth its pedigree lacks some sort of switcheroo at the end? HEIST has a twist at the end, a la THE SCORE, but it also plays with the switcheroo all through the story. Twists are great, but we like to know how they happen. After a while HEIST gets into Alistair Maclean territory, where the protagonist is on his secret, undercover, double-reverse in disguise persona. Mamet is one tough cookie, and he shows us so by making one tough movie that does not flinch from shooting a major character in the face. And though I shouldn’t reveal this—I. Can’t. Help. Myself. Thank you, David Mamet, for departing from what’s become a movie tradition: Thank you for not killing off the brother.

—Roxanne Bogucka, an Action Girl!

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