HEIST

heist

This movie isn’t very good. The previews and the impressivecredit list make it look like it is good, and it should be a goodmovie. But it isn’t. Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo and Danny Devito areall big time actors who give it their collective best in Heist,but all they have to fumble around with is Mamet’s turgid, quirky yetcookie cutter dialogue. During what should have been an otherwise tenseclimax, Hackman blurts out to Devito, “Kiss my Yankee ass!” It felt tome that Mamet was very aware that he is David Mamet and therefore thecrooks have to constantly be saying witty tough guy things. And alsothings that are just slightly smarter than what we want to hear themsay. Or stupider. Like when Ricky jay, the ugliest man in Hollywood,starts saying “Motherfucker” and “Cocksucker” you just don’t buy it. Ifelt like I was watching a walkthrough for a play.

This is oneof those “triple-cross” movies where supposedly you don’t know who ison who’s side and who is going to get away with the gold in the end.Except that you know every inch of the outcome of every scene.Basically, whenever Hackman, the criminal mastermind and ringleader,spoke real loud he was lying. There was never any doubt that his crewreally wasn’t breaking up, that the supposed fight they had aboutcanceling the Swiss job was just a smokescreen to get rid of Devito’scousin. I was less surprised about all the twists than the actors wereup on the screen. And even though Hackman’s own wife double-crosseshim, the members of his “crew” are as loyal as Chinese dogs. Oh, yeah,Mamet repeatedly prefaces metaphors in this movie with “Chinese” as anadjective. “As long as a Chinese last name” and “As cute as a Chinesebaby”. Get it? Right, no one else does either. It is like he is tryingto invent vernacular phrases. I guess all writers do, but it makes meas angry as a yak in heat.

Anyhow, Devito is an evil fence of some sort who makes Hackman and hiscrew agree to one more robbery before they all retire. Of course,it
would be too much for a writer or Hollywood to let us see a criminal inthe prime of their career. Nope, all we ever get is “one last bigscore.” Which can be done well, like in Heat, but usually isn’t, like in Heist.We are expected to feel sympathy and some sort of protestant repentanceethos. Yes, they have been very bad men, but now they want out. Abetter life, etc. Anyhow, Devito, for no reason that is ever explained,insists that his really criminally inexperienced and constantlyannoying nephew join Hackman’s crew when they go to rip off a Swissairplane full of gold. This plot device is old and tired, and Mametnever even attempts to make it believable. A brash, young neophyte getsmixed up in the caper and this newcomer refuses to play by the grizzledold veteran’s rules. This of course really annoys the wiley old
professional who must constantly say lines like, “No way. I workalone.” Or, “Yeah, but can you trust him? How do you know you can trust
him? The only person I trust is me.” Of course, against his betterjudgment, the old pro must take on the bumbling rookie. See The Score with Deniro and Ed Norton if you want to know how to do this sort of thing reasonably well. Watch Heatif you are interested in what this device looks like worked out toperfection. If any of you criminals out there reading this are beingpressured to take on a partner you are not sure about, shoot him.That’s how you’re sure.

As I watched Heist I just keptimagining a screenwriting class where the teacher says, “Introduce awhole bunch of interesting characters and then put them in the worstsituation possible.” The movie felt very amateur, almost like a roughdraft with incredibly loud explosions. Now that I think about the sceneI was just talking about some more, it really bothers me. Would it havekilled Mamet to have Devito say something like, “You gotta take mysemi-retarded cousin Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) along on your next heistbecause his mother is very sick and it would make her happy.” Or whatabout, “You gotta take my strangely retarded nephew Jimmy Silk alongbecause I want him to learn the family business and I figure this is asgood away as any.” Or even, “You gotta take my skinny-assed,bucktoothed, moustached and retarded cousin Jimmy Silk along on yournext heist because I don’t trust you enough to do the job withouttrying to screw me.” Instead, Devito just says “Here” and Hackman justanswers “OK”. Jimmy Silk joins the crew — hi jinks ensue. It is justsloppy. The whole movie is sloppy. As if we are expected to buyeverything we are being fed because of the past brilliance of thewriter/director. State and Main
Got real sloppy in parts, too. As if Mamet just thought that his pastsuccess will make the audience feel OK about his obvious and lazy
blunders

Here are more examples of the slop. During the firstheist, where they easily steal a ton of Jewels, Hackman gets his facecaught by a security camera. See, he had a mask in his hand, but if heput the mask on he would have had to kill a woman who for some reasondidn’t drink her knockout poison latte like she was supposed to. If hekeeps his mask off, then he only has to hit her with a stun gun. Thisestablishes that Hackman’s character is an all right dude. You wouldwant to have a beer with him, even though he’d steal your wallet andbeat you unconscious with it. My point is, we are shown a major robberyand the police know what the perpetrators face looks like. So what does
Hackman’s character do? Another robbery!!! Of course only this time hedoes the robbery in broad daylight and at an inconspicuous place likean airport. Much has been made of Mamet’s Nostradamus like abilities,i.e. Wag The Dogpredicting Clinton’s fidelity troubles (Took a real genius to see thatone coming.) This time though, Mamet had his criminals take advantageof the low security afforded at Logan Airport, just like the 9/11hijackers. I bet that one’s not going in his press kit.

By the time this movie wraps up, you are tired and upset that there are somany holes in the plot. Mamet manages to have his characters talk moreshit with guns pointed at their heads than Tarantino would. Mamet goesout of his way to show us the gold railings of Hackman’s boat. Only itturns out that – Surprise! – That’s not where the gold is hidden! Himand Lindo turned the gold into pipes and Hackman has them loaded in theback of his truck when suddenly nephew Jimmy Silk and Hackman’s wifeFran (Played by Mamet’s real life wife Rebecca Pidgeon), show up androb him of his gold. Not!!! Hackman for some reason knew his wifebetrayed him (Yawn) and painted a whole bunch of metal pipes black andreally he the gold pipes in another truck, etc. By the end, I just feltlike I had been at a magic show for too long, watching a magicianbeating his only trick to death.

Ruthless Ratings:

  • Film, Overall: 4
  • DVD Extras: 0, No extras at all. Nice and refreshing, actually.
  • Story: 4
  • Acting: 6
  • Direction: 3

Special Ruthless Ratings:

  • Number of cigarettes smoked, if applicable: I quit!!!
  • Number of beers drank: Stone sober although, I did steal some Paxil from my mom, but that’s for later.
  • Number of times movie was paused to do something else” Only
    once. I took a fifteen-minute nap in the middle. Sort of followed the
    same technique Mamet used to write it.
  • Number of times you found yourself enjoying the movie: 8 times.
  • Number of times you wished you had taken that screenwriting class: 40 times. This cast with a better script? Could be great…
  • Number of times the oppressive soundtrack made you reach for your knife: Wasn’t too bad, actually.
  • Number of times you imagined the director snickering to
    himself: Mamet, who is sort of like an intellectual for the masses,
    probably thought that this was a super special brilliant movie. He
    probably thinks that people who don’t get it are dumb. And he snickers
    at us.
  • Number of times your roommate laughed at you for spending $19.95 on a movie you had never seen: 3 so far.
About Jonny Lieberman

Jonny was the sites co-founder and helped carry the place in the early years. There was a falling out with Erich and he left the site for good, but a lot of his reviews live on. He has moved on to a successful career writing about cars. Look him up.