by Hank Yuloff
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Six really good actors were the attraction when the previews for Heist began to run. Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo (the detective in Gone in 60 Seconds and James Gandolfini’s commanding officer in The Last Castle), Sam Rockwell (Charlie’s Angels, Galaxy Quest and The Green Mile), Rebecca Pidgeon (Ann in State and Main) and Ricky Jay (State and Main) are mixed together as criminals putting together high-end heists.
I couldn’t wait, and I wasn’t disappointed. You will spend Heist’s full hour and a half wondering who is going to end up one final step ahead of everybody else and capture the prize.
The film opens with Hackman and his gang (Lindo, Pidgeon and Jay) robbing a jewelry store. Problems arise when Hackman is identified, so he decides it’s time to get out of the robbery business. The problem is that the guy buying his stolen merchandise (DeVito) won’t let him leave before pulling one last job. And just to make sure Hackman doesn’t screw him, DeVito sends along his know-nothing nephew, Jimmy (Sam Rockwell). I guess there really isn’t any honor among thieves. In this case, all of the characters will have some trouble knowing who to trust during various parts of the Heist.
Hackman’s gang are true professionals. They relish doing the work as much as enjoying the payoff. So when Hackman is forced to retire, it seems like a pitcher who has lost a few miles per hour on his fastball but still wants to compete. His head is in the game but he can be identified to a job he has pulled and that means jail time. Lindo is excellent as Hackman’s right-hand man and Jay is awesome as the “utility man” of the team, doing most of the set-up work along with covering his partners. Pidgeon plays Hackman’s wife, a street-smart and attractive thief—a good part to follow up to her street-smart and attractive librarian in State and Main.
The only casting decision I didn’t understand was Patti LuPone (State and Main and TV’s Life Goes On). She is a well-known and excellent actress but her character barely gets any screen time.
Heist was written and directed by David Mamet. He is the man responsible for some excellent movies: State and Main, which I thought was one of 2000’s absolute best, Hannibal, one of this year’s best thrillers, Wag the Dog, The Untouchables, and Hoffa. In Heist, he has added another movie to this list of movies which have made me a Mamet fan. It isn’t quite as good as the above movies, but it is certainly worthy of a trip to the theater. It is a quick paced flick that will give you enough twists and turns to cover up a couple of mechanical flaws in the movie. One flaw is a shootout between DeVito’s and Hackman’s gangs. Like so many times where guns are used in films, there were dozens of shots fired at close range and a lot more of them should have hit their mark. It reminded me of Tomb Raider, where Anjolina Jolie is being shot in her house by a dozen guys with automatic weapons and not one bullet comes close.
Heist is a shoot-‘em-up, beat-the-bad-guys kind of movie with a brain. It makes you want to try and stay one step ahead of everyone but they’ve been at this game longer than you.
Hank Yuloff is an advertising kind of guy who has learned to trust all of his fellow reviewers at Film Monthly.
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