The Good Thief

cast: Nick Nolte, Tchéky Karyo, Saïd Taghmaoui, Gérard Darmon, and Ralph Fiennes

director: Neil Jordan

108 minutes (15) 2002 widescreen ratio 16:9
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy in video

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon

Thief, heroin addict, gambler and local legend – Bob’s led a complicated life. Now, he’s just trying to stay out of trouble: but the lure of one last, allegedly impossible job is too much for him. A casino, a room full of priceless Old Masters, a safe, identical twin brothers, and a gambling spree all play a part in the plan. This complex game of bluff and double bluff relies upon the team being betrayed by someone – but they may not have as much control as they think over who betrays them, and in what way…
This film has a lot going for it: stylish South of France settings, a strong cast drawn from across Europe, and the ruggedly dissolute screen presence of Nick Nolte as the washed-up Bob. Unfortunately, it suffers from a terminal lack of focus. Despite Nolte’s best efforts, Bob remains an enigma throughout; we get no sense of why he’d do this job, now, and what he stands to gain personally from it. The final outcome relies so heavily upon sheer good luck that’s impossible to tell if he’s actually engineered it, or whether he’s simply a negligent boss who led his gang recklessly into danger and somehow came out smelling of roses.
Some hard-hitting subplots deal with personal and professional betrayals, providing much of the interest. The wonderfully named Nutsa Kukhianidze stands out as Anne, a refugee whom Bob rescues from a local pimp, and Tchéky Karyo, as a detective torn between arresting and admiring his quarry, makes the most of a slightly nonsensical role. But stories of addiction and police informers sit oddly alongside some uncomfortable humour, such as the gang member’s sex change that’s played for cheap laughs.
The Good Thief (a remake of Melville’s Bob le Flambeur, 1955) has some strong moments, and great dialogue – indeed, the identical twins scam deserves a heist movie all to itself – but overall, it never quite gels. An enjoyable curiosity rather than a must-see, it’s nonetheless an agreeable way to while away an evening. A good selection of deleted scenes and a director’s commentary add some interest to the DVD package.