The hot rock in question is a priceless diamond temporarily on display at the Brooklyn Museum. It is owned by an African nation - and the ambassador of another African nation wishes it stolen and returned to its original home. He is unfortunate enough to hire a gang of thieves whose specialties seem to be lack of caution, lack of planning and lack of common sense. The only other thing that seems to be lacking is the diamond itself.
From these beginnings, screenwriter William Goldman ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid") and director Peter Yates ("Bullitt") have devised "The Hot Rock," which is a long way from being the perfect caper movie but, bless it, has two or three scenes good enough for any caper movie ever made. If you're a pushover for caper movies, like I am, that will be enough. If you aren't try something else. Maybe catch up on your back issues of Look.
"The Hot Rock" is different from a lot of Big Heist flicks because Goldman and Yates lay on the characterization and the locations with a too-generous hand. The truly great caper movies (Yates' "Robbery," about England's Great Train Robbery, is a good example) are single-mindedly devoted to their steel-trap plots, and characterization has to tunnel in from underneath, or find a home in the crevices between dialog.
That isn't the case with "The Hot Rock," where idiosyncrasies have been passed out all around. Robert Redford has an uneasy stomach. George Segal can never do anything right. Paul Sand is the world's greatest lock-picker, except he gets so nervous on a job he loses his touch. Ron Liebman can drive anything from a semi to a helicopter - almost.