In the past year, moviegoers have been privy to a number of new entries in the heist film genre, some good and some bad. On the low end of the scale have been efforts such as "Sugar and Spice", essentially "Bring It On" meets "Set It Off", and "3000 Miles from Graceland", which paired Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell as a couple of casino-robbing Elvis impersonators. Thankfully, the high end of the spectrum has benefited from "The Score", which featured three generations of great actors (Edward Norton, Robert De Niro, and Marlon Brando), and "Snatch", Guy Ritchie's absurdist take on a jewel theft gone awry. Now comes the appropriately-named "Heist", which in addition to fitting firmly into the latter group, marks a return of playwright-turned-director David Mamet to the suspense-thriller arena he is best known for.
Like most heist films, the hero is an accomplished veteran who is looking for his 'one last score' before retiring for good. In the case of "Heist", his name is Joe Moore (Gene Hackman of "Heartbreakers"), who decides to retire on his sailboat with partner-in-crime and wife Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon, aka Mrs. Mamet) after his mug is caught on a security video during his latest job. Unfortunately, big boss Mickey Bergman (Danny DeVito of "Man on the Moon") twists Joe's arm into completing one more 'thing', a daring robbery at the local airport. With little choice, Joe gathers his crew, which includes Fran, Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo of "The Last Castle"), and Don 'Pinky' Pincus (Mamet regular Ricky Jay, seen recently in "State and Main"), for one last kick at the can. However, because of trust issues, Mickey insists that Joe bring along his greenhorn nephew, Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell of "Charlie's Angels"). Let the games begin...
Like the classic Mamet thriller, "Heist" possesses an expertly-plotted script that is both surprising and thought-provoking-- there are a number of plot twists in the film that may not make sense or seem arbitrary at first glance, but are then revealed to be masterful attempts at misdirection. This narrative sleight-of-hand teaches the audience not to accept anything they 'see' at face value, such as a 'surprise' revelation in the film's middle that the 'thing' has gone bust, or the film's closing scene, in which Joe lets loose a sly smile suggesting that even the ending is not as it appears. Well-written and crisply-delivered dialogue is another Mamet trademark, and "Heist" is no exception, which possesses a number of great one-liners, including Bergman's snide "Everybody needs money! That's why they call it money!", to Pinky's unforgettable commentary on Swiss cuckoo clocks. However, unlike his previous efforts, the line delivery in "Heist" comes across more naturally, avoiding the usual staccato rhythm that betrays Mamet's background in theatre.
After dabbling in Merchant-Ivory-type drama with "The Winslow Boy" and a satirizing the excesses of Hollywood in "State and Main", "Heist" marks a return to the dark world of deception, duplicity, and double-crosses that Mamet explored in films such as "The Spanish Prisoner" and "House of Games". Well-written and intricately-plotted, "Heist" is an enjoyable thriller that wholeheartedly demonstrates what the heist genre should be all about.