Heist [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Like a famous DIY product, Heist does exactly what it says on the box--no less and certainly no more--but is an enjoyable crime drama nonetheless. The story is a familiar one with ageing criminal (Hackman's Joe Moore) determined to pull off one last job before retiring. The usual sub-plots that accompany such a theme are all there (those in whose interest it is for him to continue, the realisation of growing old, the impact of the decision on those around him) and, to be honest, Heist offers us very little that hasn't been seen before. It is, however, still a hugely watchable movie. Hackman may be sleepwalking through the role but he is still capable of dominating a screen in a way few of his contemporaries have been able to emulate. Delroy Lindo is superb as main foil Bobby, certainly more convincing than Rebecca Pidgeon's pouting wife Fran and Danny De Vito's overplayed crime boss. As with all such movies (Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven being a prime example), the real joy comes in the planning and execution of the heist itself and the conflict between the prime movers. Heist certainly has more than its fair share of twists and turns and is full of bluff, deception and double-crossing, keeping the viewer more than a little hooked right to the end. No work of genius, then, but certainly worth a look.
On the DVD: Heist on disc contains nothing here to get particularly excited about, aside from the interactive menu and theatrical trailer. Picture and sound quality are good, although there is no option to change the audio settings. Unimpressive extras are limited to a perfunctory list of main cast members.--Phil Udell --This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.
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Joe Moore (Hackman) and his small band of thieves are "coerced" into taking on one last big job by their shifty fence Mickey Bergman (DeVito). But when Bergman's nephew Jimmy Silk (Rockwell) is sent along on the heist with them, it could prove to be a recipe for disaster?
The "one last job" theme is a familiar plot device in many a crime and noir picture, but as Mamet proves here, it can still remain fresh if given its own sheen. Divisive amongst Mamet's fans and seen as a lesser light in the director's neo-noir output, Heist improves greatly upon a second viewing. In fact it holds up as a clinically executed piece of noirish cinema, it's smart, crafty and laced with essence of cool.
You're a piece of work!
I came all the way from China in a matchbox.
Structured around twists and tricks, where nothing is ever as it seems - including the wonderfully ambiguous finale - Heist positively thrives on the snap, crackle and pop of Mamet's dialogue, dialogue that comes trickling off the tongues of characters whose loyalties/dis-loyalties are never 100% certain. Quite often what is being said is in clipped format, where the meaning is different to what is actually being said, while visual exchanges, also, sometimes mean more than it appears at first glance. Make no bones about it, this is no ordinary caper movie, it's labyrinthine in plotting and the director toys with the conventions of the formula.
My MOFO is so cool when sheep go to bed they count him!
Visually Mamet and DOP Elswit keep the colours smooth, but they do throw in some interesting angles and use smoky lenses to accentuate the possibility of cloudy means and motives. Acting performances are mostly excellent. Hackman underplays it perfectly as a world weary crim who may or may not be one step ahead of the game? Lindo is muscular and cool, Jay a stoic side-kick, DeVito slimy and Pidgeon (Mamet's wife) provides layers as the fulcrum femme. Only real disappointment comes with Rockwell as the poisonous adder in the thieves nest. A few years away from becoming the great actor he is now, Rockwell here lacks a dangerous dynamism, a raw sexuality to really make the integral character work to its potential.
Elsewhere there's flaws, such as the key heist involving an aeroplane that stretches credibility to breaking point; a shame since the opening robbery that introduces us to the characters is brilliantly constructed, and the big "shoot-out" scene lacks the energy to really raise the pulse; but even within that scene is a great moment as DeVito's Mickey Bergman, in amongst the flying bullets, shouts out the question: "why can't we just talk?", why indeed? You see, in Mamet's badly under valued neo-noir, talk is everything. Beautifully so. 8/10
Gene Hackman heads up a small group of thieves, their fence cheats them, and insists on one last job, with his slippery nephew along for the ride.
The cast is uniformly excellent, playing hard as nails professionals, with Mamet regular Ricky Jay (a magician) being particularly likeable. There is no shortage of good lines, perhaps too many, it takes real acting to deliver endless one-liners in anything approaching a natural way.
The first half sets up the situation, and the second half delivers twist after twist, with Hackman and his crew only just managing to stay one step ahead.
Despite all these potential strengths, what I really love about the film is the little quiet moments, Hackman just walking in some woods with a shotgun at the opening, or working on his boat, the little knowing tells that the crew are just really good at working together. And of course, it is another chance to see Hackman deliver an acting masterclass.
It's the plot and the dialogue ('Why did the Chicken cross the road? Because the Road crossed the Chicken.') that does it for me everytime. Everybody plays it cool without feeling the need to wear matching black suits and sun-glasses (a la Reservoir Dogs). It's true the twists keep comming, and the ending may be a downer for some (Though I found it very satisfying) - but if you're not up for that then perhaps you shouldn't be watching a Heist film - these things were built for Twists and Turns.
Hackman proves he's one of the greatest actors of all time kicking ass and spitting venom with the best of them (much like Clint Eastwood 35 years ago). Lindo is on top form and an equal sparring partner to Hackman. But it's in Devito's performance that you may find the bigest suprise. Those who've seen him from family films like Twins, Junior and Matilda may want to look away - He is just a right bad-ass in this film. There isn't an ounce of remorse in his character. It suprised me how nasty he can be.
Unfortunately it's never gotten the same attention as other lesser films (Ocean's 11/12). But it's a diamond in the rough, and at this price is a steal. If you're still undecided, I leave you with one of Hackman's lines:
'I tried to imagine a man smarter than myself. Then I tried to think, "What would he do?"'
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