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Muddled Humor, Trite Plot Make A Bust of ‘Heist’

Director David Mamet Should Stick to Prisoners

By Jed Horne

staff writer

Rated R for language and violence

Written and Directed by David Mamet

Starring Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell and Rebecca Pidgeon

After sitting through David Mamet’s latest production, Heist, I felt that the title was appropriate. A waste of time doesn’t begin to describe this turkey. My time was stolen.

When aging thief Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) is caught on tape during what was to be his last robbery, he has no choice but to take one more assignment from his fence, Bergman (Danny DeVito). The condition: Bergman’s nephew (Sam Rockwell, The Green Mile) has to come along for the job. Will Joe and his partner Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo, Get Shorty) outsmart Bergman and his nephew? Will Joe’s wife (Rebecca Pidgeon, State and Main) dump him for the younger stud?

What does one do with a trite, anemic setup? Well, in this case, not much. A few lame one-liners and quips, maybe? (“What makes the world go round? It’s love. Love of gold.” That one was even advertised on the movie’s web site.) An unintelligible and improbable series of plot twists and double crosses that don’t really matter because nobody in the theatre really believes that Joe isn’t going to win? Some explosions?

The only excitement experienced at this screening was in trying to guess whether the moron in the projection booth would screw up the sound or the alignment of the projector. I think he did both two or three times.

This movie isn’t bad. I’ve seen plenty of bad movies before, and this one doesn’t come close to topping the list. The tragedy is the stupefying waste of talent. I mean, David Mamet is a respectable director! And Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito are respectable actors!

So what went wrong? My best guess is that this was a feckless afterthought of Mamet’s, a sort of “let’s try to mix the suspense of the Spanish Prisoner and the laugh-at-ourselves tongue-in-cheek of State and Main, and see what happens.” Again, not much. A resounding plop.

Come to think of it, I couldn’t tell whether the movie was tongue-in-cheek, or just bad. An elaborate joke, maybe? If it is, then it wasn’t a very good one. I sure wasn’t laughing.

Case in point: the bloody shootout near the end of the movie. Was Mamet really trying to be funny? See, if the rest of the movie weren’t so dumb, I would have found a sudden, Stallone-style shootout ironic. It would be out of place, like in The Spanish Prisoner, a good movie.

Unless you get a kick out of watching midgets die, this scene is worth skipping. Maybe Mamet just hates wee folk. DeVito isn’t getting any taller--or funnier, for that matter. You’d think that after years of doing respectable and entertaining movies like Get Shorty and Hoffa, he’d be able to get a better agent. It seems like he’s typecast for a particular role these days --short and sleazy.

Speaking of sleazy, if Mamet thinks a discerning audience will turn up for his movies simply because they have his name attached to them, he’s dead wrong. I guess I can’t complain since I didn’t have to pay to see it, but I suggest that any people who don’t want to feel cheated keep their eyes on their wallets next time they go to the movies. Don’t let Heist rip you off.