Sunday, November 14, 2010

'The Maiden Heist' works because of stars

The Maiden Heist (2009)
Starring: Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy, and Marcia Gay Harden
Director: Peter Hewitt
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When the gallery collection they've guarded for countless years is sold to a museum in Denmark, three security guards (Freeman, Macy, and Walken) decide to steal three pieces they have grown deeply attached to.

"The Maiden Heist" presents three of the most talented actors working today in a gentle, well-mannered comedy that's populated with believable characters who embark on an unbelievably complex endeavor: An art heist that involves creating forgeries of three pieces of art and replacing them for the originals. As these three characters bumble their way through their first and last heist, it is the charm and humanity that Walken, Freeman, and Macy imbue them with that make the humor and jokes work.

In fact, without the charm of this movie's stars, it would have fallen completely flat. The strange (and not very bright) character that Macy plays would have been annoying instead of amusing if played by a lesser actor--and as it is, the main joke involving him obsessively getting naked and flexing his muscles in front of his beloved sculpture in the gallery isn't as funny as the filmmakers thought it was, given that they repeat it a couple of times. Similarly, Walken's adventure- and romance-starved security guard would have come across as a jerk if not for his ability to convey that he still loves his wife even while portraying the character as being tired of her and everything else in his life, except for the mystery and adventure that he sees hidden in his favorite painting. And Freeman's male "cat lady" closet artist would have come across as a flaming queen if anyone but an actor of his great skill had been cast in the part. The characters and the script they reside in are elevated spectacularly by the presence of these three great actors.

If you like low-key, character driven comedies and have a taste for heist movies where the heist only works if the amateurs trying to pull it off get very, very lucky, this is a film you should check out. It's better than it's direct-to-DVD pedigree would imply, as it only ended up as such because the original distributor went bankrupt before it was released.

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