Movie Review by Kris Griffiths
Starring: Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Pidgeon
Director: David Mamet
It’s been a quarter of a century since a certain baddy crossed paths with the son of Jor-El and tried to nuke the entire state of California. Gene Hackman may be getting on a bit now (he’ll be seventy-two in January) but he hasn’t lost any of that Lex Lutheran criminal charm. This time round he is back with his GET SHORTY buddies Danny DeVito and Delroy Lindo, as an old jewel thief called Joe Moore. Old but good.
Well, not that good. The film opens with him screwing up a basic jewellery store robbery by exposing his face to a security camera. He decides he’s had enough of it all but Bergman (DeVito), his fence, refuses to pay him for the job unless he does one more for the road – a high-risk heist involving a shitload of Swiss gold. Broke and blackmailed, Moore and his two cohorts are forced into doing this one last big job but to prevent any craftiness going on, they are to be accompanied by Bergman’s nephew, the cocky but incompetent Johnny. “Anybody can get the goods,” declares Moore before they all get cracking. “Hard part’s getting away.” Not only does he have to get away with the crime but get away from his life of crime.
The heist itself is a far cry from your average high street jewellery shop ram-raid. It is actually the most complex and risk-laden operation I have ever seen take place on screen. Moore and his two mates manage to infiltrate a major airport, overtake a Swiss aeroplane that’s about to lift off the runway, break into its cargo compartment and make off with millions of dollars worth of gold ingots. They casually bypass airport security, some state troopers, the FBI and US customs officials. The whole affair is skilfully shot and is fascinating to watch (but I can’t help asking myself how the ageing Moore manages to accomplish such a super-heist when he couldn’t even pull off a simple smash-n-grab).
The problems arise as soon as they get away with the booty and all the double-crossing and triple-crossing inevitably begins: Moore, his partners, his wife, his fence, his fence’s nephew – everyone tries to dupe everyone. There’s a twist, followed by another twist, followed by another twist. “Where’s the gold?” becomes the question on everybody’s lips, both on screen and off it. I thought the whole point of dramatic irony was that the spectator knows something the characters don’t but I didn’t have the foggiest. I guess it just becomes ‘irony’ when nobody knows anything.
“One of the most interesting aspects of the film is that you’re never quite sure what’s going on -who’s got the loot and who doesn’t,” muses an overenthusiastic Hackman. It is actually the most annoying aspect of the film. And it’s such a shame considering HEIST’s seasoned cast, sharp dialogue and excellent direction. Maybe I’m just thick.