This 2001 film is a little older than I’m generally comfortable reviewing, but I hadn’t heard of it and I like heist movies so there we go.
Nick (Robert De Niro) is a seasoned safecracker who wants to retire so he can spend time with Diane (Angela Bassett) his gorgeous and sophisticated girlfriend. His longtime fence and personal friend Max (Marlon Brando) asks him to do one last, huge job but there are two drawbacks. He would have to do the job in town, which is a no no number one with a bullet, and he would have to team up with Jack (Edward Norton) the hungry young whippersnapper who weasels his way into the job, Nick works alone.
This frank Oz film starts slowly, with a five minute introduction of Nick that was loads of fun for a heist movie junkie. It demonstrates with no dialogue from him that he’s highly proficient technically, thorough, methodical, and calm even when the safecracking is interrupted and he has to scare a young woman to make an escape, with the jewels of course. That he doesn’t just conk her over the head says a lot about him as well. Right away you know the writing is going to be tight and show you what you need, which is great for a heist movie. Because Frank Oz directed you know it’s going to have a few very cool visuals, like two people having an important conversation in separate rooms in a long shot that shows their body language and emphasizes that they want to come together on this thing they’re talking about but they’re still separated. I also very much enjoyed the scenes with massive spark actions going during the actual heist. Very pretty, and a needed visual punch to a film that can seem a little too slow.
The writing, directing and of course high powered acting is fine but the music is workmanlike, with a theme that comes up over and over and screams Heist Movie. When the film does get tense during the actual theft, the musical theme doesn’t change a bit, but speeds up and emphasizes percussion. It pulled me out of the movie a little bit, and the music shouldn’t do that. I was also underwhelmed with the portrayal of the hacker. We’ve seen so much better since than the stereotypical momma’s boy who lives in her house in the basement, and treats her like crap and has no idea how to interact with live people, but in a twenty year old movie it does more to point up how far their depiction has evolved.
Most importantly the movie follows the rules of heists. There must be heightened emotions and getting the band together and prep work and then the actual theft that must contain at least one snafu that must be worked out on the fly and must be completely feasible. If you’re going to have an intricate and highly technical heist, and you’ve set up how calm your thief is no matter how bad it gets, that gives you a larger latitude for putting your thief in danger of being caught or worse.
If you like heist movies, this one will please you, if you don’t mind something slower than normal and with a weak score. I really enjoyed the actual heist more than the set up which was kind of slow, and the writer gave us several characters to root for and care about. Because it’s such an old movie it should be easily gotten and you really should.
CFR In Addition: OMG Angela Bassett?!?! I have a serious girl crush on her. I totally understand De Niro’s character and I haven’t even seen the movie.