Robbery thrillers can always be fun, because you can root for the thief and you don't know who's going to end up with the loot at the end. Heist is no different, combining a witty script and a good plot to make an entertaining thriller.
From David Mamet, the guy who made the sleeper classic The Spanish Prisoner, Heist employs Gene Hackmen, Delroy Lindo, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Danny DeVito as thieves all aiming to get the gold for themselves. The movie moves from thrilling shootouts to elaborate crime scenes to psychologically intense dialogues through a number of twists and turns, and while you may have it on your mind the person who will end up with the gold at the end, it's pretty hard to tell.
The entire cast turns in good performances. Hackman nearly equals the cunningness of Robert DeNiro in The Score (a very slightly similar movie released in 2001, about a robbery), and DeVito delivers one of his best performances in years. Pidgeon, who I did not enjoy in The Spanish Prisoner much at all, is much more fun to watch this time around, playing a slightly sexier and a whole lot slipperier kind of woman. Along with the script, which is filled with smart little phrases and catchy puns, the combination is hard to beat.
Of course, what really makes the movie is the plot. This kind of movie can have good acting and a good script, but if you don't have smart twists thought out well in advance, then you don't have much of a movie. Mamet does what he did in The Spanish Prisoner all over again, only making the plot even more complicated and a whole lot more exciting. Heist is suspenseful and sometimes even action-packed, including a climactic gunfight that is pretty effective.
The only thing that hurts Heist is its disregard for life. I have no problem seeing people die on screen, but the characters seem to have a lack of respect for life in this film. The characters are robbers, yet to steal they generally kill a couple people here and there, commonly innocents. Nevertheless, Heist portrays them as likeable characters, and the deaths are merely shrugged off and not really thought about. Many times Hackman talks about being a thief, yet he never mentions being a killer.
Heist is an exciting and complicated film with enough twists to satisfy any fan of the genre, but there have been other movies like it, with less useless killing. Nevertheless, Mamet hasn't quite topped The Spanish Prisoner, but he's come pretty close.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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