In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It keeps the audience on unsteady footing from the get go, only ever giving the illusion of knowing what’s going on, who’s double and triple crossing who.”
Recently, in my neighbourhood, I saw something that’s all too common these days. A video shop that was closing down. They had a big sign out the front, “4 movies for $10”. I looked in my wallet, saw $30 and decided I wasn’t leaving that shop until I found 12 movies I thought were worth having on my DVD shelf. Some were movies I’d seen before. Some were movies I had a vague idea about and thought would be worth the $2.50 gamble. Some were oddities I’d never even heard of, but they looked interesting enough. So, thank you, Network Video Brunswick West. I never rented anything from you or even had a membership, but I did find some cool, interesting and mysterious things on your almost empty shelves.
“Anybody can get the goods. The hard part’s getting away.”
David Mamet screenplays are all about the details, the particulars. Not just in the way that every word is important, but in the way that every piece of punctuation is important. You could listen to a David Mamet movie and almost get the full experience of watching one. Con artist and heist movies are all about the details, the particulars. Not just in the way the characters plan their jobs, but in the way the movies lay out clues for the audience. Which is why David Mamet and con jobs make such a great pair. And when he went so overt as to actually name one of his movies Heist and put himself out there like that, he delivered.
On what is obviously just the latest in a long run of meticulously planned, successful robberies, Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) leads his crew on a massive jewel heist. After off loading the goods to Danny DeVito’s fence Mickey Bergman, it’s time for Joe and his wife, Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon) to ride off into the sunset. But Mickey has one last job that’s too good to resist.Soon, Joe has the rest of his crew back together, rounded out by Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo) and Pinky (Ricky Jay). But this time they have an unwelcome addition to their tight knit group. Mickey insists that his nephew Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) is also in on it. The impetuous Jimmy is the exact opposite of the professional, discipline that has made Joe and his team so successful over the years, and tension is immediately apparent.
The machinations of the plot and various deceptions are awesome, but what really makes Heist work is its cast. I think I always assumed gene Hackman was awesome, but in recent years, I’ve really started to notice and appreciate how awesome he was. And Sam Rockwell has to be one of the most consistent actors of the last decade or so. On top of that, you also get Danny DeVito playing a genuinely badass villain.
Any good con artist movie is about more than the characters conning each other. Good con artists movies con the audience as well, pulling the rug out from under us a few more times after we’re positive there’s no way there could be any more twists. Heist is one of those good con artist movies. It keeps the audience on unsteady footing from the get go, only ever giving the illusion of knowing what’s going on, who’s double and triple crossing who. Instead of learning my lesson and accepting that this movie was smarter than me, I kept assuming all along the way that I had it figured out. Each successive reveal just made me feel dumber. And it did it in that perfect way that made me like the movie more and more every time.