Although he recently turned 71, Gene Hackman had starred in five films that were released in 2001. While all of these performances were good, two ("Heist" and "Royal Tenenbaums") should have gained more awards notice. While "Heist" is certainly not writer/director David Mamet's best film, it's an entertaining piece that has good performances and Mamet's usual interesting dialogue. The film stars Hackman as Joe, a career criminal who screws up as the film begins and gets himself seen by the video camera during a daylight jewel store robbery.
The thief isn't too concerned, as he's ready to retire anyways. Yet, Joe's fence named Bergman (Danny DeVito) has already planned another gig and wants Joe, as well as his crew: Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo), Don Pincus (Ricky Jay) and wife Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon, Mamet's wife) in on the deal - and he won't take no for an answer, nor will he pay out until the job is done and his nephew, Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell), has gone along for the ride.
"Heist" contains all of the cliches of the genre, including the "one last gig" element as well as the "additional member who screws things up" element. Yet, for all the familiar elements, there's Mamet's usual fantastic dialogue, superb performances from an all-star cast and enough twists and turns to keep things compelling.
The film isn't entirely flawless; the events of the film never quite crackle like they should. Rather than Theodore Shapiro's rather mild score, the film needs something similar to John Ottman's more intense music from Bryan Singer's "Usual Suspects". The film's visuals seem rather plain, as well. While some of the film's twists are predictable, most are not.
Minor complaints aside, "Heist" certainly worked better, in my opinion, than Frank Oz's Summer thriller "The Score", which seemed dull and considerably more predictable. While Mamet has done better work in the past few years, "Heist" still remains entertaining.
VIDEO: Warner Brothers presents "Heist" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture does have a couple of very minor concerns, but otherwise presents the Robert Elswit ("Bounce", "Boogie Nights")'s somewhat subdued and slightly soft cinematography accurately. The picture never looks that noticably soft, but some scenes appear a bit less-than-crisp, while some darker scenes also can look slighty murky.
Thankfully, only very minimal edge enhancement is visible once or twice and no pixelation is seen. A couple of slight specks on the print used are seen, but otherwise the print appeared clear and clean. Colors, again, remained muted throughout, but otherwise accurate. This is a fairly nice transfer, but not among the studio's best recent efforts.
SOUND: "Heist" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. While I suppose it can be argued that the film doesn't need audio fireworks due to its dialogue-driven nature, the film's many outdoor scenes could have at least used a bit of ambient sounds from the rear speakers. The surrounds generally go unused throughout the great majority of the film, with only a few instances of use in all. Still, the front speakers do a moderately good job portraying the action and, aside from a few instances of yelling that sounded somewhat shrill, dialogue remained clear.
MENUS: Very basic film-themed images serve as backgrounds.
EXTRAS: Very little: trailer and bios. It was reported that Mamet was going to record a commentary (he has done so in the past), but that apparently didn't happen.
Final Thoughts: "Heist" isn't flawless, but it's an entertaining and well-acted thriller that I found quite enjoyable. The DVD presentation from Warner Brothers is short on supplements, but offers respectable audio/video quality.