cast: Ryan Reynolds, Kristin Booth, Joris Jarsky, David Suchet, and Sean Sullivan

writer and director: William Phillips

90 minutes (15) 2003
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 rental

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart

Kevin, Sam and Rob are the best robbers that never committed a crime. They are players of ‘Foolproof’, a game where they plan out how to carry out heists and then simulate them. The trio are hugely smart and very, very good at what they do. Until one of their plans is stolen, the robbery is carried out exactly how they would do it and they find themselves being blackmailed by Leo ‘The Touch’ Gilette, a master thief who knows a great plan when he sees one. If they do the job, Leo gives them back the plan; if they don’t, he gives it to the police.

Hitting the ground running with a great split screen sequence showing Kevin ‘playing’ the job and what he’s seeing in his head, this is great fun. Stylistically somewhere between Mission: Impossible and Ocean’s Eleven, it starts out as a comedy and turns into something darker and far more complicated as time goes by. Front and centre in all this is Kevin, played by Ryan Reynolds. A genuinely great deadpan comic actor, Reynolds is perfect for the role. His Kevin is intelligent, eccentric, hugely arrogant and very funny. He knows how good he is, revels in that fact and much of the film deals with him learning the consequences of his actions. It’s to Reynolds’ credit as well that he never over-eggs the performance, keeping his cards close to his chest.

The other two-thirds of the trio are equally impressive. Kristin Booth’s Sam is, in a nice twist, the group’s hothead. A personal trainer and martial artist she’s the impulsive one and responsible for one of the film’s best scenes where, just for a moment, Gilette is completely vulnerable. It’s an electric moment, where the game suddenly turns very real and she plays it with a real sense of danger. It’s a credit to Booth’s performance that she can shift from sequences like this to trading quips with Reynolds, making the pair of them a very funny double act to watch.

It’s ironic then that the most impressive member of the trio is Joris Jarsky as Rob. The techie of the group, Rob is the one completely seduced by what Leo is offering them. It’s a masterful performance, turning a likeable loser into a despicable criminal and he plays it note-perfect. Even at his worst, you can still see the old Rob struggling to get out and it’s this conflict that gives the character and much of the second half of the film its edge.

Ranged against them as Leo, David Suchet brings an unusual, heavyset menace to the role. Best known in England for his long-standing role as Hercule Poirot, Suchet’s Leo is an urbane, calm man with an eye on every angle. The scenes where he draws Rob closer and closer to the criminal life are well played and he and Reynolds spark off one another to great effect. This is a battle of wills as much as a heist movie and it’s riveting to watch it play out.

Oddly, the only minor weak point is the script. The film takes its time changing gear from twenty-something buddy movie to heist thriller and, at times, the change in tone jars a little. Likewise, one character, Detective Mason is introduced in a way that implies he’ll play a far greater role than he ultimately does. However, when the heist kicks off, the script throws twists at you thick and fast and there are some wonderful set pieces. From a beautiful pick-pocketing sequence to Sam’s talent for lip-reading and the world’s first sled-based theft, the film keeps you and the characters guessing as to what will happen next.

Intelligent, funny and very different, Foolproof is a thriller that keeps you laughing as well as guessing. Unfairly overlooked at the cinema, now is the perfect time to rediscover it.