The Good Thief



USA (US/UK) 2002 : Neil Jordan : 108mins

Nick Nolte’s current problems with alcohol shouldn’t obscure the fact that this is one of the very few genuinely great actors in current world cinema, whose presence automatically makes a film worth watching. This is just as well, as The Good Thief doesn’t have much else going for it: a flashy remake of 1950s French classic Bob Le Flambeur, it features Nolte’s grizzled expat-American gambler planning an audacious heist on a Monte Carlo casino. Despite the star’s best efforts (“You should support me in my battle against my addictions,” he growls) and a nifty cameo from an unbilled major British thesp (initials R.F.), viewer interest rapidly wanes as the plot entangles in needlessly byzantine complexities.

The ever-unwise decision to have all the main supporting actors speak heavily-accented English certainly doesn’t help matters, underlining the bogusness of a film which pretentiously dabbles in art-world notions of fakery and authenticity: the title refers not only to Bob and the ‘Good Thief’ crucified alongside Jesus, but also to Picasso – who brazenly ‘stole’ from previous masters. This is presumably intended to excuse Jordan’s own liberal ‘borrowings’ from Michael Mann and Steven Soderbergh – but it doesn’t wash. His copious overuse of Soderberghian freeze-frames at the end of scenes is an especially grating and gimmicky stylistic affectation, emphasising his own, rather glaring, directorial deficiencies.

25th January, 2003
(seen 24th, Warner Village Cheshire Oaks, Ellesmere Port)

by Neil Young