There’s no doubt that Mamet is one hell of a good writer. His Pulitzer Prize winning play Glengarry Glen Ross is one of my favorite dramas and one that transferred successfully into film. But both play and film were exclusively character driven.
Heist by its very title is an action drama with enough character to keep you interested in the action, but not enough character to support the entire drama. Hackman plays an aging super thief who on the one hand is suppose to be as cool as the characters played by Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting, yet he makes mistakes which are meant to show he’s human. But the effect muddies the waters of this drama and adds to the confusion. It simply lacks the kind of depth of character that permeates Glengarry Glen Ross.
But taking advantage of the film format to employ a few impressive special effects, adding to the entertainment value, could have compensated for this lack of depth. Instead Mamet chose to minimize special effects in order to emphasize character. This too would have worked if there were enough character depth to keep the audience interested.
Mamet had an admirable vision for this film, which he refers to as a film noir: “Film noir is rooted in two major elements,” Mamet explains. “One is violence, and the other is irony. I think that’s what makes a film noir different from a simple gangster film. Gangster films are essentially sentimental. They’re violent and they’re sentimental. And film noir is violent and unsentimental. It’s much colder than a gangster film. Violence is emotional, so to treat it unemotionally almost automatically makes it ironic.”
I’m sorry but I missed the irony, and the characters just left me cold. When I go see a movie or a play, I expect my emotions to be touched in some way, to be moved to laughter or tears. Emotions are uplifting and entertaining. If that makes me sentimental, that’s just fine with me.
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