Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money.
Watching a movie writer and/or directed by David Mamet requires a different state of mind. You have to let go of the idea that you’re going fully understand any moment of the movie whether it be what’s going on, what’s being said, or who is what. Foul is fair and fair is foul except when it’s foul or frail as a chinaman’s faberge egg. I find that Mamet writes and directs, as he did with Heist (2001), I seriously dislike it the first time and then really enjoy it the second time. On the second try, I know I’ve got to let go and it’s just so much fun. He’s like Michael Bay for thinkers. These lines come out as though the actors think they’re saying real things, but they aren’t, they’re deranged. At first, it’s annoyingly stupid but when you see it coming it’s kind of charming. It’s the opposite of popular music.
“Hand of God, that Bible stopped a bullet, would of ruined that f***er’s heart. And had he had another Bible in front of his face, that man would be alive today.”
The crew is pulling a heist. Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon) drugs the guards’ coffees and Pinky (Ricky Jay) sets off a distracting explosion while Joe (Gene Hackman) and Bobby (Delroy Lindo) break into the jewelers. Things go wrong and Joe gets his picture taken (a security camera captures him without his mask). Joe needs cash to head down south, but Mickey (Danny DeVito) is going to screw him. Mickey’s got the Swiss job and he doesn’t want Joe to skip town, he’s got bills to pay too. So Joe so low he gotta go, but Mickey’s dicky kid’s with the same game or else Joe goes with no dough. That’s Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) and he’s new.
Which of us is perfect?
The dialogue is everything. Well, maybe the plot is some of it, but the dialogue is most of it. It’s there to be enjoyed, that’s what makes it different from most every other movie you’ve ever seen which is there to be endured. It’s called “Mamet-speak.” You know you’ve made it when people recognize your voice. In most movies, a witticism is a childish pun fit into one line. A Mamet witticism is a ludicrous simile or an obscure allusion that makes you think or say “What?” It sounds like it makes a kind of sense, though, and that’s why I (and I suspect you as well) don’t like it the first time. It makes me feel like I’m on the outside of an inside joke. But I don’t think it always does make sense, it’s just full of ambiguities that could mean whatever you want it to mean, and so I like it the second time.
How long has he been with that girl?
What girl is that?
How long is a Chinaman’s name?
Like I said, the plot’s the rest of it and if you blink you won’t see much for a second but then you’ll open your eyes and wonder what’s left to heard. You know? That is to say, when Mamet does a thing it gets done. I just can’t help myself. What I mean to say is that this is a movie called “Heist” and if he did a movie called “Laugh” it’d be the craziest laugh riot you’d ever seen. This movie is twisty and turny from early on. That makes it difficult to follow the motivation, let alone the story. It mostly holds together, but because Mamet commands the same kind of power over the story as he does the dialogue that it could just as well not make sense and you’d walk away with the impression that it was a neatly knit bit of plot. I will say, though, that at the very end, I’m pretty sure he made a compromise for somebody.
With all that plot and talk taking up the room, the actors are looking through the window. They’re awful pretty, too. It looks like the actors are just puppets doing Mamet’s bidding, but when somebody botches it, and there isn’t much room for error, it shows that there’s a way to do it well. It’s only semi-detached. Hackman is fiery and absolutely engaged and it goes very well for him. Rockwell is never to be doubted when playing a smarmy individual. I’ve never seen Lindo so good. He’s having the time of his life up there and it shows. DeVito and Pidgeon are kind of playing at it. They get a lot of the Mamet-speak doozies—though nobody gets a tougher menu to read than Hackman—and they don’t always finish. You’ve got to power through the line like your pulling off a head-to-toe band-aid and they stuttered sometimes. Ricky Jay is constantly in Mamet’s stuff and I never really understood why. He’s of the “just read” family of actors, though he certainly had one terrific scene in Heist that made up for a great deal of f-bombs delivered as though from a pre-teen Bible-belter with a short skirt and lollipop.
The movie making is like a prequel to The Score (2001). The music (Theodore Shapiro) is the same kind of updated film noir semi-jazz. The look of it (Robert Elswit) is clean, clear, and under control with a few nifty angles. It’s a professional job done mostly in drab.
I’m the go-getter, you tell me what to go get.