Directed by David Mamet
(Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Rebecca Pidgeon)
David Mamet’s Heist is a film that reckons back to the familiar criminal lifestyles in classics like The Godfather and The French Connection. It is Mamet’s clever tone, knowledge of subject matter and meticulous attention to detail that immerses and entwines the viewer so deeply within the daily lives of criminals that, ultimately, we forget they are breaking the law. Even the most moral law abiding citizen will, perhaps against their better judgment, find themselves rooting for the law-breakers and getting that nervous feeling inside anytime a cop appears on the screen.
Heist stars the always-good Gene Hackman as Joe, a veteran thief who, as laws of the genre seem to only allow, is looking for one last “score” before retiring on his boat with his sultry girl, Fran. (A slinky Rebecca Pidgeon, doing a complete about-face from her previous role as a bookish square in Mamet’s State and Main.) Along with an eclectic assortment of thieves, sporting Mametian names like Jimmy Silk (The Green Mile’s Sam Rockwell), Pinky (Ricky Jay), and Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo), Joe gets himself into predictably more than he bargained for.
Though Heist’s initial set-up may be unoriginal and slightly far-fetched, Mamet is able to seamlessly emulsify his brisk narrative with a craving to show us the slightest details that go into setting up such deliberate crimes as breaking into a posh jewelry boutique or ridding a grounded airplane of Swiss gold. Hackman’s crooks are highly intelligent men, dedicated to their crafts and completely intolerant of any incompetence. Their endless desire to get the job done right with as little interference as possible is both surprisingly admirable and frightening.
Though his direction is rock-solid, Mamet’s screenplay, peppered with the typical jargon one would expect from a criminal-laden film, tends to focus too directly on the plot as it shifts from an involving opening sequence to a more conventional story arc. As the marketing campaign promises, Heist delivers its fair share of “twists,” but unfortunately the gimmick becomes so overused and arbitrary that it eventually loses any surprise or impact.
But these are petty grievances when compared to the overall picture, and it’s Mamet’s triumph in his effective portrayal of just a few more goodfellas to add to the list.
Heist is currently open in theaters nationwide.