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"The Good Thief"

Directed by Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game").
Written by Neil Jordan.  Based on the 1955 film "Bob le Flambeur."
Starring Nick Nolte, Tcheky Karyo, Ralph Fiennes and Nutsa Kukhianidze.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  4/21/03 


After coming out of the screening here for “The Good Thief”, the new film from the man that brought us “The Crying Game”, I asked my friend Laura a quick question:

“How old is Nick Nolte?  100?”

And, as old as one of America’s greatest fogies is, he is fantastic in “The Good Thief” as Bob, aging gambler, recovering addict & alcoholic, and retired master art thief.  Based on the 1955 French film “Bob Le Flambeur” (Bob the Gambler), “The Good Thief” follows Bob as he sets up one last big score in Monte Carlo as a way to recover some debt and get out of the business for good.  Hot on his trail is a cop (the always great French vet Tcheky Karyo) and on Bob’s right arm is a 17-year-old “hostess” (newcomer Nutsa Kukhianidze) that is looking for some guidance from the gambling old-timer.

Director Neil Jordan’s film starts off a bit slowly, but it then settles into a really comfortable pace as we follow Bob around France as he tries to organize a crew for the score, learn details about the casino that needs to be robbed and lets us hang out with him as he tries to elude the cops in pursuit of his plan.  Most of this comes off so well for two reasons.  The first is Nolte, who really does seem to be getting better at this whole acting thing as he has gotten older; although I do still love his parts in films like “48 Hours”, something about his bits in “Affliction” and his part here in “The Good Thief” seem to really be acting, and not just sounding gruff while yelling all the time.  Although I don’t know the man, he does charming really well here and a scene where he dupes the cop into believing that his mother past away in a field near where the cop has wrecked his car is very believable because Nolte comes off so damned well.  You like this guy, even if he abuses the bottle at every turn and is a career criminal.

The second thing that the film does so well is pace its dialogue; Jordan’s script calls for lines that come very close together, which makes things a bit hard in the early going because you might miss some of the lines because they come at such a rapid clip.  But, Nolte and the other actors make this interplay look real without looking too “scripted”, like you get sometimes in a David Mamet film like “Heist”, where the lines come very close together but they just feel like someone wouldn’t have the intelligence to string together such great lyrical poetry with a gun pointed to their head.

The beautiful settings for the films--slyly-lit interiors, beautiful French countrysides and of course, Monte Carlo at night--make for some pretty sweet eye candy throughout the film, and the great twist with the cinematography is that the actors in the film are a fairly unattractive lot...which makes the film all the cooler for not loading up on models and Adonis-types.  A great ending rounds off the experience.

Again, “The Good Thief” does start off a bit slow, but what follows is some of the best stuff of the year.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09