Thursday, September 29, 2011

At least the heist is interesting

If you want to see a heist film that goes down the tubes in a shocking manner, you could do worse than to watch Deadfall, tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM on the Fox Movie Channel.

Michael Caine stars as Henry, a cat burglar who is currently in a rest home taking a cure for alcoholism. He's approached by Fé (Giovanna Ralli), who is there on behalf of her husband Richard (Eric Portman). It seems as though Richard wants Henry to come out of retirement and take part in one more heist. There wouldn't be a film if Henry said no, so we know that he's going to agree after the requisite back-and-forth. Fast forward to the south of Spain, where the heist is supposed to take place. It's a big one, but Richard isn't so sure it will go off well. So he wants to start with something smaller so that he can see whether he and Henry can work well together. At this point, we get the big heist scene, which does go off well, and which is the one highlight of the film. Unfortunately, a good heist film should either have the heist as the climax at the end (Ocean's Eleven), or should have a good plot after the heist (The Asphalt Jungle or Rififi). Deadfall has neither of these.

After the first heist goes off and they're planning for the second heist, the movie really gets bogged down. Henry falls in love with Fé, which in theory should provide for a suitable plot conflict. Here, though, there's also the plot conflict regarding Richard's past. Henry has correctly figured out that Richard is in fact gay, and that Fé is little more than a beard. Richard also has a Nazi past, however, and it's that which is fuzzier and which is supposed to provide for more mystery. Instead, it just makes the movie tedious, and the final reveal of Richard's true past elicits little more than a giant yawn. This tedious love triangle also results in having the second heist be rushed.

As for the first heist, the one that gets shown in its entirety, it's got a very interesting presentation. The heist was planned for when the victim (some government functionary) and his family are off to one of the family members' performances at a concert. The heist is presented almost without dialog, intercut quite intensively with scenes from the concert. The thieves get away from the side of the estate and pass by the victims just as the victims are driving up the main road near the front of the estate, oblivious to the fact that they've just been robbed. (Some will note, however, the the concert is only one song.) The other interesting thing is that the concert is conducted by John Barry, who also composed the music. This is one of the few times he actually shows up in a movie. That having been said, you should probably recognize the Barry music before he shows up even in the credits: the title song sounds remarkably similar to the vocal theme to From Russia With Love at the end of that movie.

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