Two characters stare blankly at the closed door, as flashing lights from the patrol cars circle the room and a voice booms out, “Come out with your hands up!” Henry (Paul Newman) turns to Carol (Linda Fiorentino) and says, “You haven’t lived until you’ve had someone say that to you.”
Henry is a bank robber, released from prison into a nursing home because he is completely incapacitated by a stroke. Or so it appears. Carol, a nurse, thinks he is faking. Behind those vacant eyes she gets a glimpse of a kind of vitality and adventure that mesmerizes her. Every trick she tries to get him to respond, including climbing onto his lap, fails, until she takes one last chance. She was right.
Eventually, it becomes clear to her what she really wants. She wants to do a bank job with him. She once dreamed of thrills and excitement, and now she spends her time teaching frail and elderly people to do wheelchair calisthenics. She does not want to become like the people she works with in the nursing home, at least not without some adventures to remember. Carol has a husband, Wayne (Dermot Mulroney). Though she promises Henry that “he is clutch,” what will he do when things go wrong?
Though far from the glamour of the robbery of the world’s tallest building in “Entrapment,” this is essentially the same idea – a fabulous old coot and a fabulous young beauty plan a heist and take us along. This movie is better. It has some clever dialogue (one line about a toaster is one of the funniest of the year), and it has the impeccable delivery of Newman and Fiorentino, who could make the time of day recording sound riveting.
The great thing about good heist movies is that they are such marvelous puzzles. Here are the obstacles – how do we overcome them? Then here are the things we never anticipated – how do we respond to them? No one is more fun to watch play wicked than Newman and Fiorentino, but the script lets us down by conveniently skipping a few steps. Worse is the ending, which feels, given the less than 90 minute screening time, as though the movie was chopped up before release. It leaves us disappointed, making the characters less loveable scamp adventure-seekers into soul-less sociopaths.
Parents should know that the movie begins with a flashback scene in which Carol and Wayne make out while driving, leading to an accident, there is an R-ish scene in which we see and hear Carol and Wayne having sex, many characters smoke and drink and one uses drugs, and, even considering the conventions of heist movies, this one has an amoral tone that leaves us unsatisfied.
People who enjoy this movie will also like Paul Newman’s performance as a con man and card sharp in the Oscar-winning “The Sting” and as an old west train robber in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”