Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Film Review: HEIST (2001, David Mamet)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 109 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Rebecca Pidgeon (THE SPANISH PRISONER, STATE & MAIN), Sam Rockwell (MOON, THE GREEN MILE), Delroy Lindo (CROOKLYN, BROKEN ARROW), Ricky Jay (HOUSE OF GAMES, MAGNOLIA, DEADWOOD), Patti LuPone (Broadway star, WITNESS, DRIVING MISS DAISY). Written and directed by David Mamet (HOUSE OF GAMES, HOMICIDE, THE SPANISH PRISONER).
Tag-line: " It isn't love that makes the world go round."
Best one-liner: "My motherfucker is so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him." or maybe "Never liked the Swiss, they make them little clocks, these two cocksuckers come out of 'em with these little hammers, hit each other on the head. What kind of sick mentality is that?"

I thought I'd take a break from the countdown to make a few concise, mathematical observations about David Mamet's film, HEIST. I saw this film on the big screen upon its initial release, which, hard as it may be for me to comprehend, was in fact ten years ago. It's a taut little crime flick, populated with razor-sharp performers and rapid-fire dialogue. It's probably slightly more "fun," than the average Mamet flick as well (I mean, compared to, say, HOMICIDE or OLEANNA...). Ricky Jay gets a lot of deadpan one-liners,

In the Junta Juleil rulebook, Ricky Jay is one of the few people permitted to walk nonchalantly away from an explosion without drawing my ire.

Rebecca Pidgeon dons a lot of redunkulous diguises, including that of a "flannel-luvin' lesbian," Gene Hackman punctuates a lot of verbal exchanges with that 'mischievous old man laugh' he's been refining since the beginning of his career,

Delroy Lindo cultivates the idea that he has ice-water in his veins, Danny DeVito hoots and hollers like a mad ape (and punches the 'Pidge in the process– wait a minute, I like that!... I shall therefore refer to Rebecca Pidgeon as "The Pidge" from this day forward),

The Pidge smolders.

and Patti LuPone sneaks booze into her morning coffee. In short, it has a lot of character and is a damn good time.

Yet I make those notations having recently re-watched it. With the thousands of movies I'd digested between 2001-2011, until last night I could remember almost nothing about HEIST. I remembered the cast, and that there were double crosses and thieves and fast-paced witticisms, but largely I remembered that most of the film seemed to center around three ideas, or rather, three words: "fuck," "job," and "gold."

The reconstruction of the film in my head went something like this: "Fuck the gold job." –"Fuck the job!? Fuck the gold!" "Gold job fuck!" –"Job fuck gold!" "Gold fuck job!" –"Fuck gold fuck job, gold fuck!" And so on and so on.


So, upon revisiting HEIST, I decided to test these recollections against cold, hard statistics. (Now, as I continue, I would like to say that only Mamet and others of his literary caliber are allowed to get away with this sort of thing; there's a mighty fine line sometimes betwixt poetry and juvenilia.) I discovered this: in 109 minutes, there were thirty-two golds, fifty fucks, and fifty-one jobs. You may be disappointed in the tally, as it certainly doesn't approach the legendary films which go bananas with the f-word, for instance, but there's still more than one of those three words being uttered every minute, an even more impressive feat considering that there are many wordless, multi-minute heist sequences peppered throughout the film. But, in a way, my previous impression goes far in establishing the economy with which Mamet tells a story (and perhaps even Mamet's greater intentions). You see– this is indeed a movie about a job, some gold, and some people fucking each other over. Well-executed as it is, perhaps Mamet is making a comment on heist movies: as Godard said, all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun; perhaps it follows that all you need to make a post-1990's heist movie is a job, some gold, and some f-bombs? And the Pidge. Mustn't forget the Pidge. (And I'll leave you with those pleasant thoughts of the Pidge before I begin analyzing post-Nixon obsessions with the gold standard in relation to HEIST!) Four stars.

-Sean Gill


J.D. said...

Love this film. It is strangerly underrated among Mamet's film but it was always aces in my book. Gene Hackman was born to spout Mamet-speak, IMO and he fits right in with the regulars of Mamet's informal rep. company: the Pidge, Ricky Jay... I think it should be mandatory that Ricky be in every heist film.... hell, he even did the voiceover narration for THE BROTHERS BLOOM fer chrissakes!

Sean Gill said...

Yeah, it seems like a lot of people peg this as below-average Mamet, but I thought it was a heckuva good time. And maybe it should be mandatory that Ricky Jay is in...EVERY movie.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Boy Sean- really interested in this one. Always was for the sheer fact it starred Hackman. I 'll place it on the watch list.

Thank you.

Sean Gill said...


Awesome, you'll have to let me know what you think!