Movie Review By Casey McCabe
There was a news report a couple weeks ago that actor Gene Hackman, 71, had gotten into a physical altercation with an irate motorist. My reaction, and I suspect it was shared by others, was
A) wow, Gene Hackman is 71.
B) You know, I can see him throwing a punch.
C) I'll bet the other guy deserved it.
The accidental publicity could well serve the new film Heist, written and directed by David Mamet and staring Hackman as the impeccable thief Joe Moore who is looking to pull off one last heist before quite literally sailing into the sunset. Moore heads up a crew that includes the always arresting Delroy Lindo, Mamet's real life wife Rebecca Pidgeon as a cool-blooded chain-smoking pixie, and longtime Mamet lucky charm Ricky Jay as Pinky, the quiet but all-knowing cover man. The other side of the coin is not the law, which Moore's crew regards as a predictable nuisance, but their partners in crime, led by Danny DeVito, who bankrolls Moore's crew, but also rips them off, blackmails them and inserts his boy Jimmy Silk, played by the wonderfully oily Sam Rockwell, to protect that most volatile commodity in a big heist....loyalty.
The heist itself, which involves stealing a load of Swiss gold from a grounded cargo jet, is probably brilliant. We really don't get the chance to question it. The audience receives the plan in bits and pieces as the heist proceeds, and wherever the blueprint gets breached, Moore's crew has a back up maneuver or two in its hip pocket. Everybody seems to know what they're doing. In Mamet's insulated world, everyone has been around the block. No one more than Hackman's Joe Moore, no one less than Rockwell's Jimmy Silk. Yet when the success of the heist ultimately comes down to the loyalty and affection of the hot young broad, old age and cunning versus youth, arrogance and a bad moustache remains a dead heat.
Perhaps that's nothing new. For that matter Heist is a fairly conventional heist movie, but wonderfully cast, sharply written and better executed than most. It does go on to take a twist and turn too many, training the audience to predict the unexpected. The real revelation for me was Gene Hackman, who is essentially doing the same thing he's been doing during a hardworking 40 year film career. But Hackman has not had a film written so completely and so well around him since he played Harry Caul in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. Mamet's script brings into question Joe Moore's age. He's an old man who is starting to lose it. An old man who should retire. And most importantly an old man who should not have a pretty young wife. Yet everything we see on the face and in the body language of Gene Hackman inspires confidence. Unlike most of his acting peers there is nothing inherently creepy or unbelievable about seeing his character with a woman half his age. I'm not sure what the phrase "a man's man" means anymore, but stick a picture of Gene Hackman next to it and I think most people will go..."yeah."
It occurs to me that the 71 year old Hackman could also walk back into any role he's created over the years and not only be credible, but play it even better. And if he were to rear end my car and tell me it was my fault, I'd be inclined to believe him.
© 2001 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 11/7/01
"Movie Magazine International" Movie Review Index
"Movie Magazine International" Home Page