Saturday, June 12, 2010

The little heist that wouldn't

Flawless (2007) is a movie that doesn't want to be what it is, and that is its distinguishing flaw. (Don't mean to be a smart-aleck, but the fact is unavoidable.)

Making a con or a heist movie about a person with moral qualms is like making a race car movie about someone who is worried about fossil fuels and global warming. You're trying to drive in forward and reverse at once.

The planned-crime movie has certain set and very enjoyable tropes--assembling the team, revealing the plan, things that go awry that are planned-for, things that go awry that the team has to scramble to cover. We enjoy these as much as a shoot-out in a western or when all the mix-ups are untangled and the lovers fall in each other's arms. If you are going to experiment with these tropes, you had better have something good to replace them with.

The brittle uptight character Demi Moore plays in Flawless might have been a good idea for a foil for Michael Caine's calm confidence, but Moore manages to be not just irritable, but irritating. I can't help thinking a more charismatic actor could have maintained sympathy. It's hard to have fun in a team-crime movie when you like some members of the team and don't like some of the others.

The central twist is so out of proportion to what has gone before as to destroy the thin thread of plausibility the film had been dangling on. Nonetheless, my interest and engagement in the film kept wavering in and out--roughly in direct proportion to the amount of exposure the film gave to Sir Michael Caine.

But can we give the down-and-out sad-sack Michael Caine a rest now and put him in a sharp suit with a cool crew like the Oceans Eleven guys and have him pull off one more great unpredictable crazy flim-flam before he leaves the stage forever? Somebody, somewhere, please!!

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