FILM REVIEW HHH
No Crying in This Game
Nick Nolte a Solidifying Force in ‘The Good Thief’By Jed Horne
The Good Thief
Written and Directed by Neil Jordan
Starring Nick Nolte, Nutsa Kukhianidze, Said Taghmaoui, Marc Lavoine, and Tcheky Karyo
Rated R for sexuality, some language, and drug content
I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive about The Good Thief. I usually find Nick Nolte smug and obnoxious, and Neil Jordan, the director, is famous for The Crying Game, a movie that wouldn’t be famous if it weren’t gimmicky, and I hate gimmicky movies. But I’ve been wrong before, and I’m glad I didn’t get it right this time. The Good Thief, unlike our little adventure in the Middle East, proves you don’t have to shock to awe. The result is a low-key, sophisticated drama as entertaining as it is thoughtful.
Nick Nolte stars as Bob Montagnet, a petty gambler, heroin addict, and reformed thief living in Southern France. Just under the watchful eye of friend/parole officer Roger (Tcheky Karyo), Bob hatches the plot of a lifetime: a multimillion dollar art heist at the Casino Riviera in Monte Carlo. To pull it off, he goes cold turkey, quits gambling, and enlists a crew of low-lifes and underworld types, including a prostitute (Nutsa Kukhianidze) saved from an abusive pimp (Marc Lavoine), a transsexual, two identical twins, and an assortment of Arabs on the run from immigration.
Those of you expecting Crying Game-style bombast from Neil Jordan -- anyone who remembers the scene from that movie will know what I’m talking about -- will be disappointed. Nick Nolte is low-key and smooth, and not in his usual obnoxious, pretentious way (cf. The Prince of Tides).
Bob’s sophistication, raspy junk-edged sense of humor and uncanny luck doesn’t grate the way the Nolte of ten years ago would have. Instead, his presence is reassuring, a rock in an otherwise chaotic world of miscreants and low-lifes even if his mumbling is a little difficult to understand at times. True, there is the transsexual (Sarah Bridges) but her (his?) camp appeal is wisely limited to a couple of jokes.
French singer/songwriter Marc Lavoine is eerily menacing as Remi the pimp, and Tcheky Karyo does an admirable job as Roger the cop, Bob’s alter ego, a co-dependent police officer as mindful of Bob as he is in awe of him. Since I had trouble following the twists and turns of the plot, I won’t even try to give away what happens. But it’s sort of beside the point, as this film is about the aesthetic.
A jazzy soundtrack, inventive stop-action photography, and an off-color sense of humor are what keep it alive. The characters serve to feed the film’s mood rather than advance their own interests. I found myself rooting for Nolte’s anti-hero even when I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, and sympathizing with Remi even at his scummiest.
As the film’s title suggests, there ain’t no bad guys in this one. There were a few moments when I was a little irritated at myself for liking the movie so much. Nolte’s off-hand references to pop-mathematics eventually get sort of annoying. While mostly successful, some of the cinematography is a little overboard. Almost everyone in the movie has a different accent, and it’s a little tough to understand what’s going on. But flaws are easy to overlook when you’re having so much fun.