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The Good Thief (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailers; TV spots; Director's commentary; Making of documentary.

THE heist movie is given another slick makeover, this time by Neil Jordan, in The Good Thief, a European-set crime caper that could well do for the south of France what Ocean’s 11 did for Las Vegas.

Based upon the Jean-Pierre Melville classic, Bob le Flambeur, which was, itself, a 50s French homage to the American gangster flick, The Good Thief finds Nick Nolte’s world-weary gambler and heroin addict, Bob, being drawn back into a life of crime by some former colleagues when his luck (and money) run out.

The score in question involves a vault full of priceless works of art, as well as a double bluff involving the Riviera Casino in Monte Carlo, and is made all the more intricate by the presence of Tchéky Karyo’s inquisitive cop, Roger - an old friend of Bob’s, who is desperate to help him avoid arrest, but who will do so if required.

Thrown into the mix, as well, is Nutsa Kukhiani’s sultry teenage Eastern European runaway, whom Bob saves and then befriends, and several collaborators, many of whom may be working their own scams along the way - most notably Emir Kustarica’s security genius, and two of the casino’s security guards, portrayed by the Polish brothers.

Rather like Steven Soderbergh’s Rat Pack remake, The Good Thief thrives on its ability to play with viewers’ perceptions, throwing in bluff after bluff, before delivering its winning hand.

It is a slick exercise in quality filmmaking, expertly placing viewers into its world of smoky backroom card games and dark alleys, while offsetting it against the glitz and glamour of the Cote D’Azur.

Nolte is perfectly cast as the wily Bob, a partially successful thief, but friend to everyone, who gets by on charm and his ability to tell stories alone. The actor possesses the perfectly grizzled look and voice of one of life’s survivors, a dedicated gambler who believes in playing everything to the limit without a thought for the consequences.

His relationship with Karyo’s cop is beautifully-played (the two have a terrific on-screen rapport), while the incendiary Kukhiani is simply magnetic as his lucky charm - a teenager he saves after feeling drawn to her lucky eyes.

She is the epitome of the femme fatale and her performance will undoubtedly be one of the breakthroughs of the year.

Writer-director Jordan, whose films have been a little hit and miss of late, also deserves praise for producing such a sharp script and some lively direction, both of which help to turn a familiar premise into something that is never less than brilliant.

If you enjoyed last year’s Ocean’s 11, then this is well worth a gamble - in enjoyment terms, you’ll have hit the jackpot.

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