Mamet Scores Big With an Expert 'Heist'

Juvenile DelinquencyCrimeCrime, Law and JusticeTheftEntertainmentMoviesBlackmail and Extortion

David Mamet's "Heist" is the thinking person's caper flick, with its endlessly clever plotting revealing character under the utmost pressure. Mamet explores the limits of trust and loyalty and also the limits of strength and ability in the face of advancing age, and he does so with dark wit and humor while moving like lightning. Full of action and suspense, "Heist" is above all a gratifyingly adult entertainment.

"It's not getting the goods, it's getting away," observes veteran thief--and master New England shipbuilder--Joe Moore (Gene Hackman). Rugged, swift-moving and canny, Joe is clearly eager to retire while he's still at the top of his game and sail off to parts unknown in his yacht with his attractive young wife, Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon), who's as cool and sharp as her husband, and with enough loot to support them in style for the rest of their lives.

Working with his longtime partners in crime, Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo) and Pinky Pincus (sleight-of-hand artist Ricky Jay), Joe deftly robs a posh Manhattan jewelry store but winds up on a surveillance video rather than risk possibly having to shoot a store clerk who happens into the wrong place at the wrong time. This enables his feisty fence and backer, a furrier named Bergman (Danny DeVito), to blackmail him and his gang into yet another job, relieving a Swiss cargo plane of its shipment of gold bars. (It was this part of the plot that caused the film's release date to be postponed after Sept. 11.) This is a very high-risk job, and Bergman has forced Joe to accept his nephew Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) as part of his team to serve as a watchdog. Jimmy is a cocky young guy, shrewd but perhaps not as smart as he thinks he is. Jimmy spells trouble, and his presence allows Mamet to spin a tale as intricately and amusingly deceptive as any sleight-of-hand display staged by Jay while performing one of his memorable magic shows. Mamet's dialogue is a lot more spare than in his plays and some of his films but just as pungent, with DeVito handed a packet of deliciously scabrous lines.

"Heist" offers the pleasure of observing a virtuoso like Joe, a man who's always got a backup plan, staging heists that are clever beyond imagining and wondering when someone will get greedy enough to risk derailing the entire caper. Mamet keeps us guessing in assured, highly entertaining fashion about every move and every person, right to the fade-out.

Hackman's easy authority and strong, no-nonsense presence command the screen, and DeVito, Lindo and Patti LuPone, in a small but critical role, are also in formidable top form. Pidgeon and Rockwell have no trouble holding their own in such accomplished company. As for the polished but never slick "Heist" itself, it could just wind up holding out hope for the possibility that experience can count for more than youth after all.


MPAA rating: R, for language and some violence. Times guidelines: The violence is moderate for a suspense thriller.


Gene Hackman: Joe Moore

Danny DeVito: Bergman

Delroy Lindo: Bobby Blane

Rebecca Pidgeon: Fran

Ricky Jay: Pincus

Sam Rockwell: Jimmy Silk

A Warner Bros. release of a Morgan Creek Productions and Franchise Pictures presentation in association with Indelible Pictures. Writer-director David Mamet. Producers Art Linson, Elie Samaha, Andrew Stevens. Executive producers Don Carmody, Tracee Stanley, James Holt. Cinematographer Robert Elswit. Editor Barbara Tulliver. Music Theodore Shapiro. Costumes Renee April. Production designer David Wasco. Supervising art director Isabelle Guay. Art directors Nicholas Lepage, Jean-Pierre Lavoie. Set designer Russell Moore. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.


In general release.

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