USA 2001
director/script : David Mamet
producers include : Elie Samaha
cinematography : Robert Elswit
editing : Barbara Tulliver
music : Theodore Shapiro
lead actors : Gene Hackman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, Danny DeVito, Ricky Jay, Patti Lupone
107 minutes

After going belly-up with woeful movie-world satire State and Main, Mamet retreats to home turf: dishonour among thieves. Veteran heist-meister Joe (Hackman) needs one last score before he can retire to the Caribbean with young girlfriend Fran (Pidgeon). Tipped off about the arrival of Swiss gold at a nearby airport, Joe assembles his team: Fran, old pals Bobby (Lindo) and Pinky (Jay), plus young-gun Jimmy (Rockwell), whose Uncle Mickey (DeVito) oversees the job. The theft goes smoothly enough – but soon the double crosses start piling up.

It’s all deliberately old-school, join-the-dots stuff, blandly directed and unevenly acted: Pidgeon and Rockwell simply can’t keep up with seasoned professionals Hackman, Lindo and DeVito. And the script isn’t without its loose ends and rough edges – one minute airport worker Betty (LuPone) is vital to the scheme, the next she’s nowhere to be seen. Mamet may be a giant of American drama, but when it comes to the movies he’s pretty much a pygmy (or perhaps the current theatre is a midgets’ kingdom in which Mamet’s tiptoe-standing is taken for significant height.) He can write good dialogue, however – like the movie, it’s enjoyable even if it isn’t always comprehensible. You may not follow it, you just go with it, and who cares if no crook – if no human – ever spoke like this? You’ll be quoting the bizarre lines for months to come: “Motherf*cker’s so cool, when he goes to bed: sheep count him.”

9th November, 2001
(seen Nov-1-01, National Film Theatre – London Film Festival)

by Neil Young
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