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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.05%
Worth A Look36.51%
Average: 20.63%
Pretty Bad: 9.52%
Total Crap: 14.29%

4 reviews, 39 user ratings

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Heist (2001)
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by Greg Muskewitz

" remains twisty till finish..."
5 stars

A score for the mainstream, if, however, David Mamet could be considered mainstream. Warner Bros. makes it slightly more qualified as a product of the conventional than Universal Focus did for Mulholland Drive.

(Though if it were Universal all by itself, the joint effort with Lynch wouldn’t have made too much more of a difference since Disney’s hand-holding of The Straight Story was a preventative measure of success if any.) Mamet has a two-sidedness to him—a wordsmith of elegance and structure, such as in The Spanish Prisoner, State and Main or House of Games (all under his directorial tutelage as well), but he is also a contracted writer, results being Ronin, Hannibal and Wag the Dog; not necessarily embarrassing situations, but not wholly auspicious either. With Heist, in exchange for some of Mamet’s crispier dialogue, there’s a blander pathway illuminated (The Score is still too recent in memory, purloining some of the wind out of Heist’s billowing sails), a more homogenized objective, but not so much of a direct answer or outcome as one may have feared. We’re safe there, until the end (again, see: The Score), which although it remains twisty till finish, the final note we are left with isn’t as much of a surprise as the last bar played.

Gene Hackman is a deft thief, well-trained in the trade of making gold disappear. (“It makes the world go round”/ “What is that?”/ “Gold”) After an unexpected occurrence in his crew’s latest robbery of a jewelry store (excellently played-out in a stage-by-stage precision of events), he’s got his face “on a postage stamp” when he accidentally is caught on a security camera and is unable to bust the machine or steal the tape. Pressured because of this to retire once and for all with his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) and sail away on his self-made boat, his backer (Danny DeVito) “ransoms” him to pull one last gold heist before he will pay him and his crew (Delroy Lindo and Ricky Jay) their dues for the last pinch. With no other choice but to accept, the only rule is that one of DeVito’s men (Sam Rockwell) must be in on the game, too. Pulling cons is a favorite filmic pastime of Mamet’s, an incorporation integrated into nearly all of his films, whether they be modern and completely his own (State and Main), or antiquated and of another origin (Terrence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy). Heist allows Mamet the opportunity to flex his muscles, examine more than one scenario in more than one situation, and follow Hackman’s insistence of plans and back-up plans with not-always expected or foreseeable events. It’s like in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder: as the not-so-secret boyfriend/novelist reveals, it’s what you don’t plan on happening in the most mastermind of plans that will throw it off—if one detail is out of place or not played in the right harmony, it offsets everything else. That’s exactly what Hackman’s character takes into consideration and many times allows us to see redounded.

Heist avoids mangling and rushing the details in all senses, from the set-ups themselves, to the acts of thievery, and even though there might be botches when they happen—or at least unsuspecting turns of events—they are uncrumpled and hasteless, and the guiding hand of Mamet is a portentous benefit of unknowable consternation. His films are far more mazy and vulpecular than the average potboiler mystery, the latest teen thriller or even M. Night Shyamalan and the automatic correlation of bombshell-dropping endings. Mamet’s revelations are more subtle, more substantial, and in most cases more unguessable. His films don’t rotate around his “final word” or quick change of the hand, but whatever he might choose as a surprise at the dénouement adds to the already enriched course. Mamet’s choices and directions are clever, not tricksy; his motivation is less about pulling the wool over one’s eyes, than it is leading them into a deeper understanding with heavier consequences. There is always the inclusion of wit, a sharpening device for the cutting suspense, but it is applied generously throughout the film as to add one more dimension to keep on your toes for. I actually prefer the equivocal nature and loopy dialogue of The Spanish Prisoner over the more direct and hard-hitting writing of Heist (“My motherfucker’s so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him”), but Mamet still uses his trademark styling: answering questions with other questions. And that does not mean that Mamet will refrain from the occasional indulgence of captiousness. By conforming to a mainstream label and maybe even a slightly more mainstream concept, Mamet does not bend at the behest to make his film generic in the same instances as Hackman’s character must compromise (though not without tricky ducking and dodging) to the behest of DeVito. There are no computer graphics, no endless chase scenes, no Fort Knox imitations—just a couple austere explosions, a low-key plane hijacking, verbal detonations and an appropriate double-overture apex.

Most of the critical support has been behind Hackman’s performance, but Lindo, Pidgeon and Jay are coterminous to the higher-billed lead. While this isn’t a career high or landmark for Hackman, it is a prime example of his scope, nimbly portraying a nimble outlaw with low-physicality, but making the utmost of his growling powerhouse of mind. It’s been awhile since Lindo has had as apt an impact as a character, falling into the Godfather-ly famous category of a good villain, unlike DeVito who is smarmily scum. (It was only a minor disappointment not to be able to hear DeVito crackle and crunch on Mamet’s more eloquent, rhythmic dialogue.) Long-time Mamet staple (it’s arguable whether or not they’re really married, or were) Pidgeon is perennially besting herself—thanks in part to the excellent characters she has written for her by Mamet, but she is a very capable actress and is the one responsible for bringing those characters to life from paper. She is a spectacular ice queen, wicked and beguiling in her crudest and most mod role. Indeed, a change of pace from her sweet-as-pie (“Go you Huskies”) book clerk in State and Main. The only serious piece of miscasting was Rockwell, bumbling and teetering and chewing up all the scenery. As a matter of fact, I haven’t seen anything fitting for Rockwell since Tom DiCillo’s masterpiece Box of Moonlight. Enough time has filled the interim to remove one from a favored list and onto that of antipathy.

With Patti Lupone.

Final Verdict: A-.

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originally posted: 11/24/01 08:25:23
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User Comments

11/23/13 Mr. Oliver Accessible&fun yet not a cozy genre film. Requires that you keep up. B+ Mamet 4 stars
10/24/10 Ministry Pompous, weak characters, insults audience's intelligence 1 stars
6/14/07 Kadabr Brilliant film. Probably too smart for most viewers and critics. 5 stars
1/26/07 Artist Bill No BS in this one ..great Mamet style. loved it. 5 stars
3/29/06 Josh Standlee I liked the cast, but this movie was pure fucking shit! Hackman's worst! 1 stars
6/14/05 Indrid Cold Something about Mamet's stilted, hipster dialog bugs me. A nice juicy story though. 4 stars
6/09/05 Agent Sands One of the 3 greatest heist films of all time, & more 1-liners than a Don Rickles marathon. 5 stars
2/21/05 Captain Craig Not Hackmans best work. Some stupid plot lines, Glad I rented it for a buck! 3 stars
8/11/04 Monster W. Kung Terrible. Story goes from boring to absurd like in the shoot-out in daylight... please... 2 stars
3/24/04 George Jung Perfect. 5 stars
3/22/04 john predictable and utterly lifeless - the worst I have ever seen by Mamet 1 stars
10/16/03 francis director and some of the actors going through the motions, Hackman and Di Vito excepted 3 stars
7/17/03 Mr. Hat Filled with slick, clever cons & heists, exciting double-crosses, & great plays on words. 4 stars
5/04/03 Phil M. Aficionado It was between average and worth a look. Depends on taste. 3 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon Gene Hackman teams with Mamet? Can you believe it? Great scenes, confusing story, though. 4 stars
3/26/03 Jack Sommersby Witless crap from the overrated David Mamet. Not a good scene to be had. 1 stars
1/01/03 Andy Todes logic, sense, and plausability were held up, beaten, robbed, gagged and left for dead 1 stars
12/02/02 Jim More double-crosses than a shoe store. 4 stars
9/11/02 The Bomb 69 became repetitve with the crooks backstabbing each other until the end 3 stars
7/27/02 Punk_Ass Crappy acting, little dialog, very predictable. Bascily a pile of suck 2 stars
6/18/02 Dark Barøn Very predictable, poor writing, bad acting. 2 stars
5/26/02 Charles Tatum The twists and turns become predictable 4 stars
4/29/02 David A. This one really smells! It's like "Ocean's 11" in drag. Gene gets the gold! (Wow. yawn.) 1 stars
4/24/02 Iago What a horrible piece of shit! Slow with stupid dialouge. 1 stars
4/04/02 lauren mccreight trys way too hard to be ain't. 2 stars
3/24/02 J. Chusing Bites The Big One 2 stars
12/16/01 spaceworm DeVito's "money" line was a money line. HAckman (and Lindo) any day. 5 stars
12/12/01 Simeon Briggs Err, isnt this just a film where all the lines bare no relevence to that which preceeds it? 3 stars
12/07/01 Dominik Duprelle The dialogue. Mr Hackman, Mr Lindo. Quality entertainment. 4 stars
12/01/01 Phoenix Poor script. Hackman, De Vito, and Lindo deserve better. 2 stars
11/28/01 KMG Really slow at first, but Hackman just keeps on foolin' em! 4 stars
11/27/01 sdfr Mamet can spin a yarn as well as he can write dialogue. There's never a dull moment here. 4 stars
11/15/01 Tony C good for the "young, dumb and full of cum" 3 stars
11/14/01 spaceworm Look to the mid-seventies for the few times Hackman wasn't on the money. Elect him king. 4 stars
11/12/01 poetchuck Interesting twists, Hackman superb, Wife needs dialogue coach 5 stars
11/12/01 chouck bad dialog, over acting and a plot that was too full of itself 1 stars
11/10/01 Suzz Wooden acting; ridiculous screenplay; idiotic plot 1 stars
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  09-Nov-2001 (R)



Directed by
  David Mamet

Written by
  David Mamet

  Gene Hackman
  Danny DeVito
  Ricky Jay
  Sam Rockwell
  Delroy Lindo
  Rebecca Pidgeon

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