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HEIST

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ricky Jay
Director: David Mamet
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: March 12, 2002

“Don't you want to hear my last words?”

“I just did.”

Film ***1/2

David Mamet has long been and probably forever will be the writer's writer. The words and lines he creates illustrate the gift of a true screenwriting genius. His talent is equal to that of the brilliant crime novelist Elmore Leonard, who displays the exact same technique in writing and plotting. Mamet's words and plot almost always make each of his movies a surefire winner, no matter who is amongst the cast. But with his latest offering, Heist, it is demonstrated that it never once hurts to put together a stellar cast to beautifully enhance an already witty ride.

With that said, had the movie not been given the Mamet touch, I can easily say that it wouldn't have praised it as much. Last year seemed to be the year of the crime caper movie, which included Ocean's Eleven, The Score, this film, and 3000 Miles to Graceland, a movie I loved but was unwisely trashed by others. While the plot Heist is at times identical to The Score, which is better by comparison, Mamet's script lets itself unravel at a cool, marvelous pace with a nice dose of twists and turns, which seem endless.

The knockout cast is led by Gene Hackman, whose character, Joe Moore, is a veteran thief who wants nothing more to retire and attend to his recreation of sailing and building boats.  Joe's crew includes Bobby (Delroy Lindo), Pinky (Ricky Jay), and Joe's wife, Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon). He structures and executes heist jobs for his fence named Bergman (Danny DeVito). The plot begins with Joe and Bobby and co. knocking over a jewelry store, with Pinky and Fran offering distractions for the cops. The heist is a success, but not completely, because Joe's face ends up on a security camera. In the aftermath, Joe lets Bergman know that he has to get out of town immediate. Bergman refuses to let that happen, and issues Joe to perform one last job, which promises a huge income.

There's only one small catch to this particular job, which is that Bergman has required the presence of his hot-headed nephew, Jimmy (Sam Rockwell), to participate in the job. His antics prove to be a little more than Joe needs. At one point, as the crew is posing as construction workers, Jimmy attempts to pull a gun on a suspecting officer who approaches Joe, who is able to prevent trouble. Stressed out over the fowled up potential of this heist, which involves stealing billions in gold from an airplane, as well as the idea of Bergman standing him up for money again, Joe intends to turn the tables on Jimmy and his employer. It not exactly a very subtle plan, since Joe has decided to use Jimmy's affection for Fran as a distraction.

Like you'd expect in all caper movies, the heist is the key point in this movie, but Mamet does a unique trick with his heist sequence. It's shot in almost complete silence, with no dialogue and no sound whatsoever except for that of a running plane engine. I never, for once, thought that such a stylized scene could work so magnificently. The silent technique was sort of done the same way in The Score, but it took place at night, and the darkened tunnels and the level security in that setting enhanced it and made it astonishingly believable. Mamet structures the robbery in this film to take place during the daytime, which is a bit daring, and has its own share of complications.

Following the robbery, Heist follows with an endless array of double crosses to the point that you aren't really sure who will turn out winning in the end. They may not come across as a hundred percent believable, but Mamet is most concerned with the way the twists of the plot let themselves unravel where upon the viewer can really say “wow” at each surprise.

Heist came out in what was perhaps the biggest year in Gene Hackman's career. He appeared in no less four major releases, which also included Heartbreakers, Behind Enemy Lines, and his brilliant tour de force in The Royal Tenenbaums. Hackman's performance in Heist illustrates what he has long been great at portraying, tough, hard-as-they-come, and ultra cool veteran macho men. His Joe Moore is as smart as they come, and smart is yet another word that best describes the characters Hackman plays. The rest of the cast shines too, with Delroy Lindo, Ricky Jay, and Danny DeVito turning in winners of performances, all of which enhance a razor sharp script written by perhaps the all around master of dialogue.

Video ****

A sharp presentation that steals the show indeed. Warner has issued one of their first finest looking of the year with this superb anamorphic presentation. David Mamet is a master of words, but as a director he applies a good amount of style to his features, and the style of Heist is nicely enhanced for the digital format. Most scenes of the movie take place in outdoor settings, which all turn up wonderfully. This is a nice, crisp looking disc, full of sharp detail and no picture flaws whatsoever, and it's no doubt a promise of greater things to come this year from Warner.

Audio ***

If it's a film to come from the hands of Mamet, then you can rest to sure that the film is purely dialogue-driven. That being said, I feel that Warner has served the audio treatment of this film rather nicely, with a 5.1 audio track that captures what it can and at an impressive rate. The standout moment is indeed the heist sequence, in which sound is carried through on front channels, and side channels as well. Given the origin of a film like this, the quality of the sound on this disc is very much impressive.

Features *

Just a trailer.

Summary:

Heist is indeed the thinking man's action pic. Credit David Mamet for creating yet another fascinating fable filled with wondrous one liners, and the entire cast for enhancing the wit of the script to an even greater extent.