This movie isn’t very good. The previews and the impressiveÂ credit list make it look like it is good, and it should be a goodÂ movie. But it isn’t. Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo and Danny Devito areÂ all big time actors who give it their collective best in Heist,Â but all they have to fumble around with is Mamet’s turgid, quirky yetÂ cookie cutter dialogue. During what should have been an otherwise tenseÂ climax, Hackman blurts out to Devito, “Kiss my Yankee ass!” It felt toÂ me that Mamet was very aware that he is David Mamet and therefore theÂ crooks have to constantly be saying witty tough guy things. And alsoÂ things that are just slightly smarter than what we want to hear themÂ say. Or stupider. Like when Ricky jay, the ugliest man in Hollywood,Â starts saying “Motherfucker” and “Cocksucker” you just don’t buy it. IÂ felt like I was watching a walkthrough for a play.
This is oneÂ of those “triple-cross” movies where supposedly you don’t know who isÂ on who’s side and who is going to get away with the gold in the end.Â Except that you know every inch of the outcome of every scene.Â Basically, whenever Hackman, the criminal mastermind and ringleader,Â spoke real loud he was lying. There was never any doubt that his crewÂ really wasn’t breaking up, that the supposed fight they had aboutÂ canceling the Swiss job was just a smokescreen to get rid of Devito’sÂ cousin. I was less surprised about all the twists than the actors wereÂ up on the screen. And even though Hackman’s own wife double-crossesÂ him, the members of his “crew” are as loyal as Chinese dogs. Oh, yeah,Â Mamet repeatedly prefaces metaphors in this movie with “Chinese” as anÂ adjective. “As long as a Chinese last name” and “As cute as a ChineseÂ baby”. Get it? Right, no one else does either. It is like he is tryingÂ to invent vernacular phrases. I guess all writers do, but it makes meÂ as angry as a yak in heat.
Anyhow, Devito is an evil fence of some sort who makes Hackman and hisÂ crew 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 inÂ the prime of their career. Nope, all we ever get is “one last bigÂ score.” Which can be done well, like in Heat, but usually isn’t, like in Heist.Â We are expected to feel sympathy and some sort of protestant repentanceÂ ethos. Yes, they have been very bad men, but now they want out. AÂ better life, etc. Anyhow, Devito, for no reason that is ever explained,Â insists that his really criminally inexperienced and constantlyÂ annoying nephew join Hackman’s crew when they go to rip off a SwissÂ airplane full of gold. This plot device is old and tired, and MametÂ never even attempts to make it believable. A brash, young neophyte getsÂ mixed up in the caper and this newcomer refuses to play by the grizzledÂ old veteran’s rules. This of course really annoys the wiley old
professional who must constantly say lines like, “No way. I workÂ alone.” 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 betterÂ judgment, 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 HeatÂ if you are interested in what this device looks like worked out toÂ perfection. If any of you criminals out there reading this are beingÂ pressured to take on a partner you are not sure about, shoot him.Â That’s how you’re sure.
As I watched Heist I just keptÂ imagining a screenwriting class where the teacher says, “Introduce aÂ whole bunch of interesting characters and then put them in the worstÂ situation possible.” The movie felt very amateur, almost like a roughÂ draft with incredibly loud explosions. Now that I think about the sceneÂ I was just talking about some more, it really bothers me. Would it haveÂ killed Mamet to have Devito say something like, “You gotta take myÂ semi-retarded cousin Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) along on your next heistÂ because his mother is very sick and it would make her happy.” Or whatÂ about, “You gotta take my strangely retarded nephew Jimmy Silk alongÂ because I want him to learn the family business and I figure this is asÂ good away as any.” Or even, “You gotta take my skinny-assed,Â bucktoothed, moustached and retarded cousin Jimmy Silk along on yourÂ next heist because I don’t trust you enough to do the job withoutÂ trying to screw me.” Instead, Devito just says “Here” and Hackman justÂ answers “OK”. Jimmy Silk joins the crew — hi jinks ensue. It is justÂ sloppy. The whole movie is sloppy. As if we are expected to buyÂ everything we are being fed because of the past brilliance of theÂ writer/director. State and Main
Got real sloppy in parts, too. As if Mamet just thought that his pastÂ success will make the audience feel OK about his obvious and lazy
Here are more examples of the slop. During the firstÂ heist, where they easily steal a ton of Jewels, Hackman gets his faceÂ caught by a security camera. See, he had a mask in his hand, but if heÂ put the mask on he would have had to kill a woman who for some reasonÂ didn’t drink her knockout poison latte like she was supposed to. If heÂ keeps his mask off, then he only has to hit her with a stun gun. ThisÂ establishes that Hackman’s character is an all right dude. You wouldÂ want to have a beer with him, even though he’d steal your wallet andÂ beat you unconscious with it. My point is, we are shown a major robberyÂ and the police know what the perpetrators face looks like. So what does
Hackman’s character do? Another robbery!!! Of course only this time heÂ does the robbery in broad daylight and at an inconspicuous place likeÂ an airport. Much has been made of Mamet’s Nostradamus like abilities,Â i.e. Wag The DogÂ predicting Clinton’s fidelity troubles (Took a real genius to see thatÂ one coming.) This time though, Mamet had his criminals take advantageÂ of the low security afforded at Logan Airport, just like the 9/11Â hijackers. I bet that one’s not going in his press kit.
ByÂ the time this movie wraps up, you are tired and upset that there are soÂ many holes in the plot. Mamet manages to have his characters talk moreÂ shit with guns pointed at their heads than Tarantino would. Mamet goesÂ out of his way to show us the gold railings of Hackman’s boat. Only itÂ turns out that – Surprise! – That’s not where the gold is hidden! HimÂ and Lindo turned the gold into pipes and Hackman has them loaded in theÂ back of his truck when suddenly nephew Jimmy Silk and Hackman’s wifeÂ Fran (Played by Mamet’s real life wife Rebecca Pidgeon), show up andÂ rob him of his gold. Not!!! Hackman for some reason knew his wifeÂ betrayed him (Yawn) and painted a whole bunch of metal pipes black andÂ really he the gold pipes in another truck, etc. By the end, I just feltÂ like I had been at a magic show for too long, watching a magicianÂ beating his only trick to death.
- 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
- Number of times your roommate laughed at you for spending $19.95 on a movie you had never seen: 3 so far.