Right of the heels of the hugely entertaining ‘The Bank Job’ we have yet another British period heist movie, this time starring the phenomenally gifted Michael Caine, who is close to two hundred years old and the always lovely Demi Moore who isn’t nearly as ancient, but I do remember watching her when I was a teenager on General Hospital, and I’m no spring chicken. Though not quite up to the lofty entertainment levels that I thought ‘The Bank Job’ contained, ‘Flawless’ is none the less a very solid, very tight, well crafted heist thriller done in only by what I felt was an unreasonably sappy and neat ending.
An old woman sits in a London eatery awaiting to be interviewed by a very young, fast moving, up and coming and somewhat disrespectful female magazine reporter who is doing a story called ‘women who led’. This reporters cool reception towards this old woman changes when she pulls out a 168 carat diamond and informs the girl that she stole it and that she hasn’t been in London as a ‘free woman’ in over forty years. Now that she has this reporter’s full attention, the old woman begins to tell her tale.
Laura Quinn (Moore) in 1960 London is smart, clever and attractive and the only female manager at the London Diamond Company which is the hugely monolithic supplier of diamonds across the six populated continents. Unfortunately, despite all of her skills as a manager and talents that equal, or in some instances surpass her male counterparts, the glass ceiling that Laura has to deal with is made of super Plexiglas and is six inches thick, as she gets passed over time and time again for promotions. Being a shade under forty and having sacrificed her personal life for her professional life, Laura soldiers on vowing to herself never to give up, until she gets some information, from a very unlikely source, that she will be getting sacked in short order as she is being made the scapegoat in a company screw up.
That source is nighttime janitor Mr. Hobbs (Caine), a widowed old man with a slight limp who lives alone and has dreamed up one helluva cockamamie plan to help secure his retirement, which involves getting into the company’s repository of heavily guarded diamonds, the largest diamond reserve in the world, and taking a handful or two. Mr. Hobbs fills in Laura about the details of the plan, and though she is initially resistant but once she learns that she will probably be blackballed once she is relieved from her duties from her company, she’s reluctantly becomes an accomplice to the geriatric janitor, only salved by the knowledge that a handful of diamonds cannot be missed, considering the millions upon millions of diamonds that are stored in the reserve.
Well it would appear that this janitor is way smarter than anyone gave him credit for and his plan against the heavily fortified, 24 hour surveyed diamond vault goes off without a hitch. Sort of. To give away anymore just wouldn’t be cool but Laura will learn that a handful of diamonds can indeed be missed, as that figurative net starts to tighten around her neck, with a life behind bars looking like one of her few options.
So when a movie starts out with the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s rendition of ‘Take Five’ then dadgummit, that movie is going to have a lot to live up to. Director Michael Radford’s film more than lives up to that classic song as he has created a film that is ‘almost’ a neo classic in itself. There are so many things that work right in this film from the look and feel of early 1960’s London… I guess since it’s not like I was alive at the time… but I’m guessing it looked, felt, and smelled just like it was presented to me by Radford and his talented set designers. Radford also realizes that a heist film just isn’t any good if there’s no tension and no fear of getting caught and though some it may be a ‘bit’ implausible at times, the director did a masterful job of infusing a palpable dread throughout the film that had the audience truly concerned about the outcome of our would be jewel thieves, and sitting on the edge of our collective seats.
But to care about the outcome of the jewel thieves’ one has to care about the jewel thieves themselves, and to that end Caine and Moore both do excellent jobs in their respective roles. Ms. Moore was quite believable with her interpretation of a person who has never committed a crime before and how one would expect someone to behave during and after such an event, and of course Michael Caine is simply one the best actors of this or any generation who effectively cloaks Mr. Hobbs behind soft speech and a faltering gait, only spoon feeding us bits and pieces about his characters intentions. With veteran actors such as Joss Acklin and Lambert Wilson supplying solid support ‘Flawless’ is as well acted as it was executed.
Of course if you call your film ‘Flawless’ which has the double entendre of the diamond reference and the heist reference, you open yourself up to those who say it’s not so. ‘Flawless’ does have flaws in my opinion, mostly stemming from an ending that seemed disingenuous and tied up a bit too neatly, almost like an episode of ‘Murder she Wrote’. Of course I can’t reveal it but a film that effectively blurred the line between bad people and good people, and right and wrong, to have things get wrapped up in this fashion seemed extremely out of place, which was slightly disappointing.
Regardless of that, ‘Flawless’ was otherwise an excellent film with great pacing, and very interesting and well told story, very good performances that had it’s only flaw, from my vantage point, in a suspect ending. Still highly recommended viewing.