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USA 2001
Directed by
David Mamet
109 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


As you’d expect, David Mamet’s Heist is both a clever crime thriller and a showcase for the director's rather mannered dialogic stylisations.  Somewhat reminiscent of Jules Dassin’s 1956 classic, Rififi, the film takes as its central premise the oft-used “one last job” scenario with its profound identification with the fatalistic career criminal who has lived his life by his outsider code and may now (though we hope he won’t) die by it. This is summed up beautifully in the film's climax when in a take-no prisoners shoot-out a criminal associate who lies dying before him says, "Don't you want to hear my last words?" Joe coolly replies, "I just did".

Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) is the aging leader of a professional criminal gang that includes his wife, Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon), Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo) and Don Pincus (Ricky Jay). During a jewel robbery Joe's face is captured on a security camera so he decides to retire before he gets nabbed. He and his team are coerced into agreeing to do one last job, "the Swiss job", by money-man and receiver Bergman (Danny DeVito). Bergman insists that they take his nephew Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) along. Of course, we know that is not going to work out well. .

Hackman fans won’t be disappointed by the actor's performance here (his last of note) as the world-weary old school crim whilst Lindo, Pidgeon and Ricky Jay, the latter two both Mamet regulars along with DeVito  and Rockwell provide solid support. In a typically Mametian flourish just as Joe uses his wife, Fran, to entice Jimmy so Mamet uses his gorgeous wife, Pidgeon, to entice us in what is essentially a long con in the spirit of his outstanding 1987 debut, House of Games.

Mamet’s fondness for convoluted plotting tends to overwhelm character development. This particularly affects the development of the Fran and Jimmy relationship which we pretty much have to take on Mamet's say-so as most of it happens off-screen  For some this lacuna may be hard to accept, Mamet not pausing to justify the plot twists and turns and even, more so, Joe’s remarkable ability to stay ahead of the game but the film is so well-paced and entertaining that few will really complain.




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