The Good Thief (3)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


  I have come to respect Nick Nolte’s abilities as an actor.  The Nick Nolte that appears in The Good Thief, however, is not the same Nick Nolte I admired.  Here he mumbles his way about as if he were doing a pale imitation of Marlon Brando, circa 1951.  I kept expecting him to rip his shirt and yell, “STELLA!”

 The first hour of this remake of the 1955 French Noir Bob le Flambeur is so slow and dark it’s soporific.  After about 20 minutes I bought a cup of coffee to induce wakefulness.  When that didn’t work I resorted to a chocolate bar.  The first hour is where the film should develop characters and explain who they are and why they’re there.  Alas, Director Neil Jordan apparently didn’t feel that was important enough because, although characters are introduced, it’s hell trying to figure out who’s who and why.  And the cinematography is what I call pretentious avant-garde.  You’ve gotta see it to believe it.

 Bob Montagnet (Nolte) is a drugged-up gambler who puts together a crew to rob a casino.  There’s a young Russian girl, Anne (Nutsa Kukhianidze) he saves from a pimp, a cop who’s chasing him for some reason, and a bunch of other guys who are either good guys or bad guys (who knows?  Who cares?).  Nothing’s ever explained.  Why it takes an hour to set this up is mystifying.  OK, they’re going to rob the casino.  How long did it take to say that?  A lot less than one hour, I can tell you.  That’s why you better take some sort of stimulant if you want to survive the first hour…because NOTHING HAPPENS! 

 Oh, wait, one thing does happen.  One of the most derivatively drivel scenes Hollywood puts in virtually every film about a drug addict.  Bob’s a drug addict, right?  So he has to clean up to rob the casino, right?  So guess what he does.  I’m sure you’re way ahead of me.  He takes his Russian girl friend to his apartment, handcuffs himself to the bed, throws the key on the floor, and tells her not to give him the key when he asks for it!  Gee, that’s originality for you.  Naturally, a few scenes later he’s sweating and thrashing and asks for the key and she won’t give it to him.  Cut to three and a half days later and he’s clean (and never again tempted, nor are drugs ever again mentioned).  Hollywood can always cure an addict with a pair of handcuffs, a bed, a compatriot to deny him the key, and three and a half days.  My only question is how did he go to the bathroom?

 This ends with one of those absurd poker games Hollywood loves.  You know, the ones where every hand has a full house beating a flush.  And this isn’t really poker, it’s just five card showdown with no betting after the initial bet and no drawing, so the odds against getting even one good hand in an evening are huge.  In a game like this, a Queen high hand will probably win most of the time. But we never see a hand worse than two of a kind!

All the while Nolte’s mumbling stuff you really have to strain to hear.  My advice?  Don’t strain.  When you walk out of the theater, you’re going to be saying to your companion, “how did that happen?”  But you really won’t care.

 April 26, 2003

 The End