Heist (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Gee, we've never heard this premise before. A master con man and thief thinks he has pulled his last sting, but his fence needs him to do ...

 ... you got it - "one last job".

The film is one of the better caper flicks I've ever seen, and I like caper flicks, so it was really my kinda film. It has the usual convoluted plot filled with quadruple crosses. The master is not only trying to scam the mark, but is also scamming the fence, and his own wife. For every sting that fails or might fail, he has a back-up plan. The general plan is to steal some gold headed for Switzerland, and it is quite a puzzle to try to figure out how they plan to do it, how they plan to fool each other, and where the gold really is at any given time.


The thing I like about Mamet's construction is that he forces you to question the motivation behind every single action. Is character A saying that to character B because he means it, or because he wants character C to hear it? Does he send his wife to the enemy camp knowing that they will automatically suspect her? Do they let her into their confidence, or do they pretend to in order to feed her disinformation? Once he starts the shell game, you automatically start to think there is no pea under any of the thimbles. Since he places you into this mode of thought, he can get away with dialogue that has no hidden meaning, because you will suspect it anyway, so the lack of a plot twist becomes a plot twist in itself. Clever stuff.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85

  • no meaningful features

The plot is fun, but it is also supported by crackling dialogue from David Mamet, and slickly professional performances from some of the masters (Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo, Danny DeVito, and the often underrated Sam Rockwell).

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, BBC 5/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars ... a loser. Made for an exorbitant $35 million, it grossed only $23 million at the box. The gross was predictable for this type of film, but the budget was out of control. This movie could have been just as good in all essential respects with a third or a fourth of the budget.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or 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. 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.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Excellent genre film. A fun puzzle of sting and countersting, ala The Spanish Prisoner. Needless to say, avoid it if you don't like this kind of contrived film.

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