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Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Remakes. BLAH. I normally hate them and think that in general they have no place in cinema since there are likely hundreds of thousands of better stories that are yet to be told. So why take an existing property and update it or change it’s language so lazy ass Americans don’t have to read subtitles? So, I was skeptical but curious when I saw The Good Thief in the theater back in 2002. It is a remake of the French crime classic by Jean-Pierre MelvilleBob Le Flambeur (translated as Bob the Gambler) of which I am a great admirer. Under the direction of Irishman Neil Jordan, I knew at least that the material was in safe hands.

Roger and Bob...friends and enemies.

Roger and Bob…friends and enemies.

The Good Thief plays out like a proper crime caper film. Bob (Nick Nolte) is a gambler and a heroin addict with a criminal past that is…checkered. He has a long history with local cop Roger (Tchéky Karyo) who longs to put Bob behind bars for good. Bob meets a stripper/prostitute Anne (Nutsa Kukhianidze) and extricates her from a rough situation with her pimp, taking her under his wing. In return, she helps take care of him and starts dating his protégé Paolo (Saïd Taghmaoui). After a tough beat at the horse track costing him the rest of his money, his friend Raoul (Gérard Darmon) tells him about a caper that could make them rich and keep them out of the rackets for good, that famous LAST JOB – an art heist at the Casino Riviera in Monte Carlo. But they are short on money and like any good gambler, Bob has an ace up his sleeve…a Picasso painting that he supposedly won from the man himself on a bet during a bullfight.

A plan in motion - Raoul, Paolo and Bob le flambeur.

A plan in motion: Raoul, Paolo and Bob le flambeur.

The plan begins to come together. Raoul knows the guy who set up the security at the Grand Casino, Vladimir (Serbian film director extraordinaire Emir Kusturica). The rare works of art on the walls of the casino are supposed to one of the attractions of the upscale casino. However, the real painting are kept in an underground vault away from the general masses. It is here where they will concentrate their efforts with Vladimir’s help. Bob assembles a team of former trusted associates and things move forward. Of course there are obstacles to the operation. It wouldn’t be a heist movie without them. Does he pull it off?

The lovely and contemplative Anne.

The lovely and contemplative Anne.

Director Neil Jordan did such a wonderful job handling this material and making it his own. I don’t think he tromped on Melville‘s original film except with the ending. A post-war french noir ending doesn’t translate very well to today’s cinema, so I figured it would be different going in. I forgive him that trespass. I absolute love the hesitation he puts into the cuts between scenes, so we linger just a half second longer than normal. It really gives it that crime caper, old Batman TV show-esque kind of vibe, which is really fun. This film is self-aware and I think that’s okay. It’s a playful adaptation and that is one of its strengths. Nick Nolte gives a very strong performance as Bob and he plays very well off of Tchéky Karyo. Without the chemistry between the two of them, this film can’t succeed. Jordan‘s usage of Leonard Cohen‘s “A Thousand Kisses Deep” also helps add to the boozy atmosphere of crime, drugs and gambling. There are twists, turns and surprises just like a crime movie should have. Just a superbly crafted film.

This film streams on Netflix.

Here’s the trailer: