Fri April 11, 2003
The Good Thief
Nolte as a good actor? He is very good.
By John DeSando, WCBE's
In ?The Good Thief? Nick Nolte plays Bob Montagnet, a down-but-not-yet-out Bogie, a very bright thief, and a heroin addict. Natsa Kukshianidge's femme fatale, Anne, is a 17-year old Bacall. It's the south of France--Nice and Monaco-- and it's time to relieve Monte Carlo of some precious paintings.
Picasso is the model for Nolte's scamming talents: Picasso's conflicted painting of a woman with 2 sides to her face is the appropriate analogy for the duality of the young girl, both innocent and depraved, and Nolte's gambler, good and bad as the title suggests. Picasso?s being accused of stealing from everyone adds to the allusive charm.
The caper involves a Judas deceiver to support director Neil Jordan's frequent Christian motif (Remember ?Jude? in "Crying Game"). The ?crucifixion?s? good thief, Nolte's thief, is good to the young Anne by saving her from the pimp. Jordan again joins an unlikely couple (Consider Fergus and Dil in "CG"), here a father figure with an errant daughter.
The winding roads of the Mediterranean shoreline are also fitting metaphor for Nolte?s tortuous path to redemption. The requisite drying-out scenes, where Bob handcuffs himself to the bed and rejects Anne's offer of sexual freedom, are effective realism in an otherwise stylish film that eschews clarity and ingenuity in favor of some character development and much atmosphere.
The scenes at the casino are smoother than "Casablanca's," slicker than James Bond's, and lighter than "Croupier's." When Bob and Anne begin their end of the elaborate heist by challenging the house odds, there is little to worry about their losing but much about the philosophy of gambling, of going all the way regardless of the outcome. However, Jordan?s take on slick thievery is not really different from that found in the recent ?Confidence,? ?Heist,? or ?Ocean?s Eleven.?
The denouement is hardly logical or dramatically tight: Does an ex-thief go clean? Does he save his Mary Magdalene? Does he stop his losing streak and addiction? Does he pull off the heist? None of this is the point.
Bob as a "good thief " is all that matters.
And Nolte as a good actor? He is very good.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.