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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Good Thief
Good Thief
Fox // R // August 19, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 15, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

A low-key, sleek, enjoyable "update" of the 1955 French film "Bob le Flambeur", Neil Jordan's "Good Thief" is an interesting companion piece to Steven Soderberg's remake of "Ocean's 11". That picture was confident, light entertainment - its pieces fell into place, the dialogue was slick and sparkling and the performances were fun. "Good Thief" is much less showy, but still elegant and smooth in its own subdued manner. "Thief" clicks not so much due to plot twists, but character development and performances from actors who fall expertly into their role.

Nick Nolte plays Bob, a former expert gambler who is now a mess - addicted to heroin, gambling and probably a half-dozen other things. As the film opens, Bob has hit bottom, but his friends (Saïd Taghmaoui, Gérard Darmon and Emir Kusturica) are already in the midst of planning an art heist right before the Grand Prix that may be a stepping stone to a bigger job. Along the way, Bob meets with a cast of characters (as one puts it, "Everyone likes Bob. That's the problem!"), including Anne (Nutsa Kukhianidze, looking an awful lot like Leelee Sobieski), a 17-year-old hooker who begins to see Bob as something of a father figure, an art dealer (Ralph Fiennes) and the local police chief (Tchéky Karyo) who constantly looks out for what Bob's next plan might be.

The film's joy is in the creation of its world. There's not a great deal about the heist and the movie itself takes a long time to get going, but it takes a pleasing satisfaction in the way that it takes care to develop characters, relationships and even the smallest details of the look of the neon-bathed, rain-soaked streets. Despite the colors and style on display, hints of wear and tear dot the landscape. We don't feel as if any of this was created for the story, but as if these people have gone on about their business for years.

The performances are superb throughout. Nolte plays an aging, addicted crook like it was meant for him, while he and Karyo are terrific together. Kukhianidze is also a great find, able to produce a cool, street-smart style that's intoxicating. Supporting performances are also quite good, and well-cast. Style-wise, the picture has great atmosphere, production design and cinematography, but I didn't care for a few little touches - the occasional freeze-frames called a bit too much attention to themselves, even as brief as they were.

"Good Thief" isn't anything new or groundbreaking, but it's entertaining, nonetheless. The picture is well-made, confident, intelligent and offers a few great performances. Most may see where it's going, but I think most will still find it an enjoyable trip.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Good Thief" is presented by Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan. Each side has its own side of a dual-sided, single-layer disc. The anamorphic widescreen presentation was usually pretty solid, although there were a few aspects of it that I found slightly off. Sharpness and detail were often quite solid, although during a few minor moments the picture did start to appear slightly soft.

Other flaws included some instances of edge enhancement. Although never too serious, a few scenes did include some mild amounts that were a bit troubling. The print looked excellent, while compression artifacts were not an issue. Colors, unfortunately, were a little less consistent; although they appeared vivid, crisp and well-saturated throughout most of the movie, they started to look a bit soft and muddy in a few of the indoor sequences. Overall, a pretty nice transfer that does Chris Menges' cinematography justice.

SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was less successful, although I suppose it's pretty understandable, given the material. Surrounds kick in somewhat for some instances of music, but they could have had more to do with the ambient sounds of the streets. Largely, this is a front-heavy presentation that focuses on dialogue and offers the occasional bit of score or sound effect. Dialogue remains generally decent throughout - some mumbled instances of Nolte dialogue aren't easily heard, while the music sometimes overshadows the dialogue a bit.

EXTRAS: A commentary by director Neil Jordan, seven deleted scenes and a short "making of" featurette.

Final Thoughts: "Good Thief" is a solid, stylish drama lead by an excellent Nolte effort. Fox's DVD boasts good audio/video quality, along with a couple of supplements. Recommended.

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