Heist (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/11/2001

Three out of five stars
Running time: 107 mins

A quick glance at the basic plot summary for Heist (ageing con is blackmailed into doing ‘one last job’ before retiring, double-crosses ensue) and you could be forgiven for thinking ‘Not this again’, especially as the previous ‘one last heist’ movie (The Score ) was less than two months ago.

However, the presence of writer-director David Mamet suggests that this will be less than typical.

There are two things you should know about David Mamet. One: he writes killer dialogue that actors would happily sell their own mothers for – routinely referred to as America’s "greatest living playwright", he is renowned for his ‘hard-boiled’ scripts.

Two: he is inordinately fond of con tricks and twisty-turny plots. Heist is no exception to either of these two things.

The cast is particularly mouth-watering. Gene Hackman plays Joe Moore, the ‘ageing con’ and the leader of a ‘crew’ that includes Delroy Lindo, Rebecca Pidgeon (Mamet’s wife, who’s played the female lead in his last four films) and Ricky Jay (you’ll know the face, but Jay is also both a Mamet regular and a genuine con-artist and card-sharp).

Danny DeVito plays Bergman, the slimy fence who blackmails Moore into doing "The Swiss Thing" and adding an extra proviso – that they take his nephew (Sam Rockwell) along and show him the ropes. Naturally, things don’t quite go according to plan. Or do they?

The heist scenes themselves are exciting to watch and competently handled, which is slightly unusual for a Mamet film, as he usually favours dialogue over action.

However, after a certain point in the film, you begin to realise that the double-crosses are coming thick and fast and that this is, in fact, the point of the film – you’ll either go along for the ride (and give up trying to work out what’s really going on), or you’ll get increasingly annoyed with Mamet’s games.

That said, the superb cast ensures that the film is never less than watchable. Hackman is as reliably excellent as always and DeVito gives good sleaze-value for money, though Sam Rockwell very nearly steals the film from under the noses of the support cast. Pidgeon is frustrating at times, though that’s less the fault of the actress than of her enigmatic character.

The film, as you’d expect, is brimming with great dialogue, notably the final exchange between Hackman and DeVito and a story Lindo tells about a Bible that almost saved a man’s life when he got shot, because he always wore it next to his heart: "And if he’d only had another Bible for his face, that muddyfunster would still be alive today…"

In the end, how much you enjoy this will depend on your tolerance for Mamet’s trickery – anyone expecting a straightforward heist movie is liable to be disappointed. However, there’s still plenty to enjoy, thanks to its great cast and Mamet’s winning way with words. Worth watching.

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Heist (15)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 10:34

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