David Mamet's Heist (2001) - Reviewed

Images Courtesy of Warner Brothers

"You know why the chicken crossed the road? Cause the road crossed the chicken!"

David Mamet, known for his unrivaled dialogue and stripped down street level confidence stories, delivers a bare bone lingual battle royale in Heist.

Gene Hackman is the leader of a crew of thieves who gets his face captured on camera during their latest job. His fence, played by an impish Danny DeVito, blackmails him, forcing the master criminal into one last score before he can escape the country. What sounds like a cliche' for the genre is elevated to the heavens by Mamet's outstanding wordplay and the ensemble performance of a legendary cast.

"Your weight and your fate, right here."


Delroy Lindo delivers one of his finest performances as Bobby, Hackman's right-hand man who is a felonious fortune cookie, delivering hilarious one liners laced with the threat of real violence throughout. The one-of-a-kind Ricky Jay steals every scene, as usual, playing the crew's optimist and the calm of the storm. Rebecca Pidgeon plays Hackman's "wife", a con woman who uses her body and wits as ammunition in equal amounts. Rounding out the cast is the great Sam Rockwell as the conniving young gun part of the team.

"If I'm the go-getter, you tell me what to go and get." 

Mamet's command of the English language is the centerpiece. Heist is filled with not only quotable gems, but also plain and realistic exchanges. Characters often repeat themselves, which some have criticized, but when you examine real, human interaction, repetition is part of the game and Heist's sometimes monotonous loyalty to this is what makes it so intriguing. These are blue collar criminals with real problems, families, and agendas. It is not gutter opera like Eddie Coyle, but nor is it the porcelain Madonna of Coppola's Godfather. This is a story about a theft. It is not making any statements on the consequences of crime. These are people who have made their choices and are consummate professionals at what they do.

"Don't you want to hear my last words?" "I just did."


Another great aspect of this film is the action. The few fight scenes are clumsy and chaotic, with characters capitulating when outgunned and sloppily sliding weapons across slippery docks to their compatriots. Jean Frinette's stunt direction is simple and proficient. The final showdown is quick and brutal, with Mamet trying to keep things realistic, but also keeping the focus on the words. Everything comes down to what is said and what is actually meant.

"Of course everyone wants money. That's why it's called money!"

In the end, Heist will not be making any lists for greatest crime film of all time. It is purposely simple so that its verbal double and triple crosses take the center stage and by the time the film ends, you are glad this is the case. Even the ending is ambiguous as to who is on who's side and it is glorious.

Available for digital rental now, so stay cool.

"My motherfucker's so cool, when he sleeps, sheep count him."

--Kyle Jonathan