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THE GOOD THIEF

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Nick Nolte, Tcheky Karyo, Said Taghmaoui, Emir Kusturica, Ouassini Embarek, Nutsa Kukhianidze
Director: Neil Jordan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: August 19, 2003

“Always play the game to the limit. Damn the consequences.”

Film ***

Seeing the type of character that Nick Nolte plays in The Good Thief, you may find yourself thinking that life may have imitated art for the actor. Nolte’s character is one that is indeed down on his luck. Once declared a master thief at the top of his game, he now finds himself as low as he could ever fall, gambling frequently in the same areas as drug dealing and prostitution. Notle’s character also happens to currently be as substance abuser, something that may have well followed the actor all the way to his unfortunate arrest last year. But the high point in The Good Thief is watching the character slowly rise up from depravity and back to his heisting roots.

Set in ever so beautiful French Riviera, Neil Jordan’s film is a superb character study, with a sharp touch of a heist movie. Nolte plays Bob Fontana, the son of an American father and a French mother, who at the beginning of the film is all hopped up on heroin and losing another instance of luck during a sour card game. The sound of his graveled voice alone suggests a man who’s only so close from the edge. After too many losses and nearly no coin to his name, Bob forces himself into a quick detox, as he cuffs himself to a bed and eating only ice cream, a process that feels slow and painful.

When back on his feet, Bob considers taking up a heist of ultra-complexity, and taking place in none other than a casino in Monte Carlo. Bob intends not to steal the money, but to steal the paintings that lie within the casino. He then assigns a limited, but distinct crew, and goes to work on the plans. The only thorn in Bob’s side is that of a persuasive cop (Tcheky Karyo), who always seems to be on Bob’s tail at every turn.  

If it sounds as if I’ve given the notion that The Good Thief is a heist movie, I’ve misled you. The heist is only about ten percent of the actual story, as the film is very much a character study at heart, surrounding Nolte’s character from rock bottom to back at the top where he once was at a criminal, but extremely slick profession, and as we can see by the end of the film, Bob Fontana is all about slickness.

My opinion of Nick Nolte has always remained the same. He either succeeds greatly at bringing a character to life, or has a tendency to overplay his roles, as clearly demonstrated in the recent Hulk. With The Good Thief, Nolte is at the top of his game, bringing a sharp, uniquely complex character to life with strong power and conviction. Neil Jordan is a director who has a knack for lush style, and he applies this film with memorable shots and set pieces.

The Good Thief is quite a terrific character piece, complete with a sharp, persistent plot and memorable characters to boot.

NOTE:  This movie is based on the classic French film Bob le Flambeur.

Video ****  

Fox has issued quite an eye gazing transfer for this film, enhancing the much beautiful scenery of France and all its inner settings. The anamorphic picture (a full frame version is also included) is in every way flawless. There are an equal amount of day and night shots, both of which display terrifically. There are also a few added bonuses, like a scene inside a darkened studio which is laced a blue neon light, which is really a sight for the eyes. Terrific marks all the way.

Audio ***

It’s needless to say that a character piece is relied heavily on dialogue, but Fox manages to keep up the juice with a nifty 5.1 track. The dialogue is, of course, delivered as strong as can be. In addition, notable background action, including music playback in numerous club scenes, and surrounding crowd noise pay off well, too.

Features **1/2

The basic feats are at hand here, including a commentary track by Neil Jordan, deleted scenes with optional commentary, and a six minute making of featurette.

Summary:

The Good Thief is both a unique character piece and a well done heist movie, with gorgeous scenery and acting as well.