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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2001!
Directed by David Mamet
A jewel thief's nephew is sent along on a heist to ensure a longtime partner in crime stays honest about the division of the loot.
I’m going to write something right now that I’ve been saying for years, but for the first time putting it into print. It’s a bold statement that I’m sure will drum up some controversy, but I don’t care.
David Mamet is the best writer working in Hollywood today.
There. It’s out there. But what about Tarantino you ask? My answer: What about him? Don’t get me wrong, I love Tarantino and his work. I think he’s a genius. But David Mamet he is not.
But this review is about Heist; not a comparison of Mamet to anyone else, so let’s get down to it.
Like other Mamet films, there is much more going on than you think at first. Also, like other Mamet films, Heist is not dumbed down to satiate a mass audience. He’ll give you the benefit of the doubt of being able to keep up with his film. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be watching a Mamet film in the first place.
The story starts with Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) and his gang (Delroy Lindo, Rebecca Pidgeon and Ricky Jay) taking down an elaborate jewel heist that doesn’t go quite as planned, and Joe is caught on camera. This of course means that he has to flee.
They take the jewels to the fence Mickey Bergman (Danny DeVito), who’s hung up on another job coming up called “The Swiss Job.” Joe doesn’t agree to it as he just wants his cut to leave, but Mickey makes him do it by not giving Joe his share. Joe can’t take his boat down south without some money, so he reluctantly takes the job with the caveat that Joe take along Mickey’s nephew Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell).
Of course, so far, this sounds like your average heist fare. Big time crook does one last job to get out of the business. We’ve all seen it before. But pay attention.
Joe and his gang begin to plan the heist for The Swiss Job, but not much is shown as to what they’re actually doing or how it will be a heist. Mamet keeps this in his pocket and when he does show it to you, can you even be sure you’re watching the actual robbery?
When the hustle is taking place, Jimmy the Silk returns, and finds out about Joe’s apparent departure. This forces Joe and his gang to do The Swiss Job again, but this time, they have another plan.
I hate to do this, but I’m afraid I should end the plot line here for fear of giving something away and taking enjoyment out of this flick.
So what separates this heist film from the loads of other heist films out there? The answer is simple enough: Mamet.
The dialogue is out of this world. You’ll have a fear of breathing in case you miss some of the great lines in this. One line of the movie is said by Hackman when someone says to him that he’s smart and how’d he figure it out. His response is “I try to imagine a fellow smarter than myself, then think, what would he do?” Whenever I write a script now, I ask myself “what would Mamet do?”
There are some great lines in this film, much better than the example I just gave, and much more than I can list so I’ll just put down the imdb link to the quotes section of this movie.
Give them a read if you’d like, but you’d be much better off watching this to get the delivery and unexpected nature of the dialogue.
Heist also has an incredible “rewatchability” factor. I’ve watched it twice in the past week after watching it I don’t know how many times before. There’s so much going on in this movie, the first time you watch it is almost like an initiation into it. You get the general idea of what’s going on, but it isn’t until repeated viewings that you get the full scope of the intricacies of the plot. Even then, who’s to say if you’ll get the full intricacies of the characters motivations. You’ll begin questioning things on multiple viewings forever digging deeper into this story. For example: Did Joe really get his face on camera during that jewelry store heist at the beginning by “accident?” What do all the China references mean?
The photography by Robert Elswit (There Will be Blood Oscar fame) isn’t pretty. That’s not to say that it’s ugly, which is clearly isn’t, but it’s not pretty like most other Hollywood films. He makes it look gritty without beating you over the head with it and without employing the overused handheld technique. Most of the film looks like it was shot with natural light, and if it wasn’t, hats off to Mr. Elswit for creating that look so well.
Now I’m going to write something else I’ve been saying for years.
Give Gene Hackman the career Oscar!!!
I can’t think of anyone that deserves it more. Look at this guys resume. He is an amazing actor that I don’t believe you’ve ever seen a bad performance out of. Gene Hackman can easily be the standard of which great careers are measured against. You’ve come to expect nothing but excellence out of this legendary icon, and any movie is improved immeasurably by his presence. Of course, with that said, he delivers his usual excellent performance here.
Delroy Lindo also gives an impressive turn and continues to make me believe that he is a far too underrated actor that hasn’t been given his proper due. No, very often times, he is not the one you think about as you leave the theatre, but he is a man whose presence is felt on the screen, and contributes to making the film a much better work.
Danny DeVito really sinks his teeth into his character of the scummy fence, and Sam Rockwell becomes invisible, like he does with every character, diving into his character.
Heist is a very smart, thrilling film, but I will be the first to admit that it won’t appeal to everyone. Mamet’s refusal to not pander to the lowest common denominator will of course limit his audience, but I believe, keep his integrity intact. Rather than try to make blockbusters, Mamet seems happy to play in his own small corner of the sandbox and I for one, thank him for it. If you like your movies with a brain, you’ll thank him for it too.