Heist, The (United States, 2001)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Since the death of Alfred Hitchcock, many filmmakers have vied to succeed the Master of Suspense. With apologies to rip-off artist Brian De Palma, my vote goes to David Mamet, whose films House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner can stand alongside any of the best modern mystery/thrillers. No, they don't always make sense, but they are incredibly enjoyable - two characteristics that were true of many of Hitchcock's works.

Heist is wonderfully written excursion into criminal activity that throws us into the deep end and asks us to sink or swim. With dizzying speed, we are shuttled through a series of double-crosses and triple-crosses, and all is not revealed until the very end. One could argue that there's one twist too many, but it works brilliantly, so who cares? Heist begins with a meticulously planned and flawlessly executed jewelry store robbery, proceeds to the plotting of an even bigger crime, and ends with an apparent falling out between thieves. It's fast-paced and wildly entertaining.

Dialogue has always been one of Mamet's trademarks - especially the staccato beat with which it is delivered. However, while Heist contains its share of brilliant one-liners (including one or two that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud to utter), the words are spoken in a much more "natural" manner than in any previous Mamet-directed effort. There are no strange pauses and there is no odd rhythm. Admittedly, I missed it a little, but it's the right approach for this movie.

The cast is stellar. Gene Hackman plays Joe Moore, the veteran thief who is looking for one final score to finance his exit from the business. His team is comprised of Rebecca Pidgeon, Ricky Jay, Delroy Lindo, and Sam Rockwell as the cocky newcomer. Danny DeVito shows his vicious side as Joe's fence, who suddenly wants a bigger piece of the action. Admittedly, this is not a character-driven motion picture, so none of these performers have to take their alter-egos through anything more dramatic than a perfunctory arc, but they all do solid jobs inhabiting their characters' skins.

To say anything more about the specifics of Heist would be to ruin the fun of discovery. This is one of the best American thrillers to come out in the last year or two (although it's still not in the same league as Memento). It's consistently fun, occasionally funny, and will have viewers on the edges of their seats on more than one occasion. Once again, playwright-turned-filmmaker David Mamet has crafted a motion picture worth seeking out.

Heist, The (United States, 2001)

Director: David Mamet
Cast: Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ricky Jay
Screenplay: David Mamet
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Music: Theodore Shapiro
U.S. Distributor: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 1:49
U.S. Release Date: 2001-11-09
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1