The Good Thief (2002) from Tuna

This heist movie is a remake of a 1955 French film, Bob Le Flambeur, which was directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.  Bob (Nick Nolte) is a heroin addict, a compulsive gambler, and a career thief who dwells on the wrong side of town in Nice, but is a good person who is loved by the locals. Bob befriends and rescues Nutsa Kukhianidze, a young immigrant who is using heroin, working in a seedy strip club, and making the wrong sort of friends.  


We see Nutsa Kukhianidze's breasts when she is trying on a dress for the big finale.

DVD info from Amazon for The Good Thief

  • Theatrical trailer(s)

  • Director Commentary by Neil Jordan

  • deleted scenes

  • "Making of" Featurette

  • Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats

DVD info from Amazon for Bob le Flambeur

When Nolte loses his last penny at the racetrack, he agrees to mastermind a major heist in Monte Carlo, even though getting caught would mean life without parole. The police chief loves Bob so much that he wants to foil the plan so he won't have to arrest him.

Although the plot doesn't really cover any new ground, there is a lot of attention paid to fleshing out interesting supporting characters, and Nolte was made for the role of Bob, which he plays to perfection. Nutsa only has three credits so far, but she's very cute, her accent is not impossible, and she can act. It is likely we will see more of her.

Scoop's comments in yellow: (spoilers)

The Good Thief is a terrific movie in many ways, but I predict that many of you will find it disappointing. I noticed in the online comments that many people read the excellent reviews, then found the film lacking. Many others disliked the way that the storyline tampered with the original French script, especially by adding the happy ending.

I have some advice to offer.

1) Don't be fooled by the plot summary into thinking it is a heist film. That is only true in the very broadest sense. People who enjoy a good heist film like to see the details of how the scam went off. This film doesn't explain, and doesn't really show how Bob and his men did what they did. Your enjoyment as a viewer is merely to see the result, and to smile at its impact. This is because the plot pulls a flim-flam on the viewer. In the film we see Bob planning two simultaneous heists - a decoy and a real one. He lets word slip out on the street about the decoy, but the real heist is known only to his chosen cadre. The real heist is explained to the audience in detail.

Or at least that's what the film wants you to think.

All the while, the "real heist vs. decoy" discussion turned out to be merely magician's patter, the normal misdirection employed by the con man. But when the real scam is revealed, it comes as a surprise to the audience, and we know almost nothing of how it was done.

Therefore, if you like the normal pleasures of a heist movie, they are essentially absent here. You will think "what the ...?" at the end.

2) Don't expect it to have one of those existential endings like the original. Bob's best friend is not going to get shot, and Bob is not going to go to jail forever. This is not the same movie as Bob le Flambeur

3) If you don't like a bit of magic in the story line, you'll be irritated. The premise of the film is that Bob is a great guy and a great thief, but a poor gambler. At then end, merely trying to establish his alibi, he has such a streak of luck in the casino that he breaks the house and they have to pay him by check. That was all just a lovely, serendipitous spin, and was (according to the film) the greatest run of luck in the casino since 1873. 'Tis magic, and not for those with an anal-retentive need for script credibility.

4) Nick Nolte does some serious mumbling and groaning in this movie. (In addition to his other character flaws, the script made him a junkie in the remake.) Many people complained that they couldn't understand what he was saying.

The problem with the film was not with the critics, but at the box office. There was no audience for it. It didn't please the people who wanted a gritty, character-based European art film because of the happy, sappy ending. It didn't please the people who wanted a heist movie, because everything it told the audience was a lie, and the result was basically unexplained. OK, take a minute to adjust your expectations. Now that you know it ain't Ocean's Eleven or Bob le Flambeur, if you're still interested, you may like it a lot.

I'm with Tuna. I thought Nolte got the role of a lifetime, a role that would have been perfect for Bogart in another time. Together, Nolte and Tcheky Karyo did a very credible update of Bogart and Claude Rains; Nolte as the seedy, wisecracking American ex-pat who hates when people find out that he has a good heart; Karyo as the garrulous French policeman who loves and admires a man he should be arresting. I found Nutsa very charming in a gamin-like "Audrey Hepburn with an accent", "Leelee Sobieski on a starvation diet" kind of way. I just hope I don't have to learn to spell her name.

The film is different. It defies expectations. It has some of the grit and depth of a European character study, with none of the cynicism. It's not really an important film but, to tell ya the truth, I enjoyed it a lot.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA panel consensus: three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4.

  • General UK consensus: BBC liked it, but the British average was only two stars. Mail 2/10, Telegraph 5/10, Independent 6/10, Guardian 4/10, Times 4/10, Express 8/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.9/10; Yahoo voters score it a B+.
  • It grossed only $3.5 million in the USA, basically with arthouse distribution. (Max 222 screens)


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C (Tuna) to C+ (Scoop).

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