In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_momo_poster

A Letter to Momo

Even scenes that work, such as a climax on a rain-soaked bridge, feel like they could have been trimmed by a few hand-drawn frames. Maybe…

Thumb_69rzzkn5scyaqf9fhbegvjhsrmb

Cannibal

Visually striking and confident but frustratingly hollow in terms of character and narrative.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Life Itself Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Anderson Tapes

  |  

A criminal mastermind gathers about him a handpicked band of experts, with the intention of pulling off an incredibly complicated theft. Their plan involves disguise, the outwitting of electronic detection devices, split-second timing, daredevil acrobatics and sheer chutzpah.

And what you've got is one of my favorite genres, the Big Heist movie, known in some Eastern critical circles (but less colorfully) as the Caper Flick. There have been dozens, and there's no need to list them here. What matters is that each one follows the obligatory plot pattern, from the recruiting of the experts to the final excruciating climax (which is all the more exciting since it must take place in dead silence, with everybody padding around in sneakers).

Two new movies owe their structures to the Big Heist genre: Gordon Parks' "Shaft" (1971, which is a detective movie, too) and Sidney Lumet's "Anderson Tapes," which is comfortably within the Caper tradition and works very, very nicely.

Sean Connery, looking mean with thick black eyebrows and a thinning hairline, is the mastermind this time. He's an ex-safecracker who's just gotten out of prison. He shacks up with an old love (Dyan Cannon) who lives in an exclusive New York apartment building packed to the rafters with rich tenants and expensive possessions. His plan is to back a Mayflower van up to the building and literally strip it clean.

Connery plays the only completely developed character in the movie; In a Big Heist film, the plot is more important than anything, and you can't indulge in a lot of excess characterization. But Lumet has sneaked in some characterization anyway, by using supporting actors who have a rich background of associations for us. Two of the best supporting actors are in beautifully unexpected roles: Martin Balsam is a swishy antique dealer, and Alan King plays a Mafia chief so well, and with such delicate under-emphasis, that you wonder how they left him out of "The Godfather."

The only serious structural flaw in the movie involves the emphasis on electronic surveillance. The original novel, as you probably know, was supposedly based on transcriptions from various public and private spies. That was a literary device, and too cute even for a bestseller. In the movie, it's dead weight. We have to eavesdrop with too many private eyes and look over the shoulders of too many FBI agents, to no particular avail. Perhaps Lumet was simply too ambitious in trying to work anti-bugging sentiment into the film. If he'd thrown out all the hidden mikes and stuck with the Heist, "The Anderson Tapes" would have moved with a more confident step in the direction of "Rififi."

Popular Blog Posts

Video games can never be art

Having once made the statement above, I have declined all opportunities to ...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Reverse Trip: Charting the History of Bong Joon-Ho's "Snowpiercer"

A look at the cinematic and political history that resulted in Bong Joon-Ho's "Snowpiercer."

James Garner: 1928-2014

An obituary for the legendary James Garner, who has passed away at the age of 86.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus