David Mamet, writer/director of “Heist,” is fascinated by the con. He has written movies about an ordinary person who becomes involved with professional con men (“House of Games”) and about men who sell vacation property by selling a dream to people who cannot afford it. His most recent film was “State and Main,” about people who said and did anything to get their movie made. When one character was accused of lying, he explained it was just “a talent for fiction.” But it may be that the con that interests Mamet most is the story itself, with the storyteller as the con man who spins a yarn so enticing that the listener is utterly captivated.
And it is a pleasure to be captivated by Mamet, the master of tired, tough, talk. The characters in “Heist,” long-time thieves on their last big job, have had everything burned off of them but the coolness at their core. They do not talk to communicate. They talk to test each other and show off in front of each other and sometimes to show off in front of those who don’t get it. Their talk is like their thievery, stripped down, cynical, and clever. It’s like a secret language from Planet Cool and it makes you feel that it just might be worth breaking the law just to be able to speak it. Main character Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) is “so cool that when he sleeps, sheep count him.” His pretty, young wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) “can talk her way out of a sunburn.” And everyone wants money; “That’s why they call it money.”
More archetype than stereotype, the set-up is the veteran with one last big job, the one that will get him out of the business for good. Moore’s fence (Danny DeVito) will not pay off on a jewel robbery unless Moore goes for a gold shipment being held on a plane. If this part sounds familiar, it’s because you just saw the same set-up with Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro in “The Score.” Just as in “The Score,” the fence brings a new young partner into the deal. In this movie, it is Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell), young and arrogant. Will Moore get away with the gold? Will there be double, triple, and quadruple crosses? Is there ever any honor among thieves? It is a treat to explore these questions in such capable hands.
Parents should know that the movie has very strong language, sexual references and situations (including sex used as a bargaining chip), drinking, smoking, robbery, and a very violent shoot-out.
Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is possible to be loyal to people who are professional betrayers. Are there any good guys in this movie? How can you tell?