GOOD THIEF, THE
Bob Montagnet (Nick Nolte) is a hard drinking, thieving, heroin addicted American living in the South of France (near his French mother’s home village) with a gambling habit. After rescuing a 17 year old girl (Nutsa Kukhiandidze ) from the evils of the street and on the verge of dying from his own lifestyle, Bob is talked into one last big heist by his friend Raoul (Gerard Damon), and cleans himself up going cold turkey. The target is the Riviera Casino at Monte Carlo, whose vault holds 80 million franks. But the new Japanese owners have even more valuables in the form of great masterpieces hanging on the walls, bought with 80s wealth and intended to make the casino more upmarket. Bob signs on to lead the team of lads, despite warnings from local detective Roger (Tchecky Karyo), who likes and admires him but won’t hesitate to arrest him.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its noir, European genes (inherited from Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1995 movie Bob le flambeur) not only intact but renovated for the 21st century, The Good Thief is the good oil on good heist movies, with punch and panache. (A few incoherent lines lost in the sound mix, and some bewildering plot details notwithstanding.) A moody soundtrack featuring songs like Leonard Cohen’s downbeat, existentialist blues number, A Thousand Kisses Deep and Bono’s great, poignant reading of That’s Life, takes us deep into the psyche of Nick Nolte’s Bob. Nolte wears the face of his life, and it’s well suited to this intelligent crime drama, driven entirely by character. Neil Jordan showed his ability to make films like this with Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, but here he’s found a new key in which to sing. Not wanting to demean himself or Melville with a dreary remake, Jordan did to Bob le flambeur what Paul Keating (the great painter of fake masterpieces, not the ex-PM of Australia) could never do to paintings; he made a copy within the original. That is, Jordan‘s film contains both the original AND a copy, the latter being a second heist idea, and something that elevates the film from remake to re-invention. And that idea rests on well forged masterpieces. The notion of a fake robbery hiding the real one appealed to Jordan, but he wasn’t satisfied to just insert a new plot element: he retooled the whole film, moved it from Paris to Monte Carlo and made the entire project his very own. Visually exciting, with edgy image handling driven by the content and a power-driven editing philosophy, the film is riveting throughout. All the performances are stand-outs, including the young, cool, streetwise and breathy newcomer Nutsa Kukhiandidze, with dark humour and a cool aesthetic informing every frame. It’s arthouse cinema for the mass market. Corporate Hollywood eat your heart out.
Review by Louise Keller:
A crackling good heist movie set in the opulence of the Riviera, The Good Thief dazzles through all its twists and turns in a thrilling and satisfying nail-biter of a yarn filled with surprises. Neil Jordan is no stranger to surprising his audiences. After all, his body of works are as diverse as The Crying Game, The Butcher Boy and The End of the Affair. The Good Thief is different again, with Jordan using the rich European setting as more than a backdrop, and is the hunting ground of its characters. While the central character Bob is an American drug and gambling addict, he has lived in France long enough to meld with the crowd. His associates and his ‘co-dependant’ adversary who has been hot on his pursuit for years are all Europeans, and the impact of this multi-cultural group who live and work together compounds as the depth of culture becomes tangible. The scene in which Bob meets Anne, in a scungy backroom of a seedy nightclub run by the Russian Mafia, could be anywhere in the world, but slowly the impact of the Cote D’Azur and its exquisite beauty impacts on us. This is a story about fakes and the real thing. Everything and everyone has a dual side, from the planned double heists to the original paintings and the fakes, the two gangs of thieves, the twins and even the two sides of the protagonist, Bob. The juxtaposition of the underworld, the prestige of the art world and the glitz and the glamour of the mega-rich makes for pretty heady stuff and Jordan uses plenty of style and technique to add edginess to the proceedings. Terrific editing gives the film a sense of immediacy and each scene ends with a sharp, short freeze frame, which draws attention to it. And the use of music is superb. Listen too for Bono’s haunting rendition of the classic That’s Life, which reflects all the irony that life can dish up. Nick Nolte is well cast as Bob, the notorious charmer down on his luck but who can always turn things around; luck and heroin is his lady. When one runs out, he turns to the other. I also love Tcheky Karyo as the policeman who is obsessed with his capture. Seventeen year old Nutsa Kukhianidze has remarkable presence – we are sure to see much more of this assured actress - and all the cast is woven together harmoniously in a tapestry of talent. This a film that hooks you in – totally - with its surprises, fascinating characters, wonderful settings and unexpected twists. Anyone who knows and loves the south of France will lap up the ambience and some of the shots of Monte Carlo are spectacular. As for the scenes in the Casino, when Bob makes the croupiers sweat, they are simply irresistible. The moral of the story? Cover your bets, of course.
Email this article
Favourable: 2 (Andrew, Louise)
GOOD THIEF, THE (MA)
CAST: : Nick Nolte, Gerard Darmon, Said Taghmaoui, Tcheky Karyo, Marc Lavoine, Nutsa Kukhianidze, Emir Kusturica, Ouassini Embarek and Ralph Fiennes
PRODUCER: Stephen Woolley, John Wells, Seaton McLean
DIRECTOR: Neil Jordan
SCRIPT: Neil Jordan (inspired by Jean Melville’s Bob Le Flambeur)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Chris Menges
EDITOR: Tony Lawson
MUSIC: Elliot Goldenthal
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anthony Pratt
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 17, 2003