Review: The Heist (2009)

Despite the enjoyable efforts of its cast, The Heist is a film stunted by its own unimaginative narrative, resulting in a forgettable experience.

Bringing together three of the most loved actors of American cinema, The Heist (also known as The Maiden Heist) is a low-key, occasionally comic caper, which, with the best of intentions, sadly fails to use its cast to any memorable effect, instead resulting in an enjoyable but ultimately unfulfiling film.

The film opens with Christopher Walken’s Roger, an unassuming security guard at an art museum whose appreciation of one particular painting, The Maiden, has become an obsession. From his fantasies of saving it from armed robbers to his encyclopedic knowledge of its origins, Roger sees it as the real woman in his life, even over his wife Rose. When plans are made to transport the painting along with several other works of art to Denmark, Roger unites with two other guards who have similar relationships with other pieces to steal them and replace them with forgeries.

This Heist is anything but unconventional, with its planning and enactment being carried out as expected. Whilst this does mean that the narrative lacks any real tension or momentum, the film seems more concerned with its principle characters than with their actions. Christopher Walken has always been an enjoyable screen presence, with his unmistakable vocal delivery and almost naïve persona in full flow here. Whilst occasionally Walken may get carried away with these elements of his performance, his character is nonetheless likeable as the mild-mannered but passionate Roger trying to preserve the love of his life (even if she is a painting).

Similarly, Morgan Freeman’s Charles falls under the same vein as Roger; an ageing but artistic soul looking to keep meaning in his life by saving a favorite painting of his own. Together, academy award winners Walken and Freeman form a convincing friendship, and their bumbling portrayal of impotent enthusiasm gives the film some emotional meaning. However, when joined by William H. Macy’s George, a paranoid eccentric with a background in the military, the group’s dynamic is somewhat quashed by his overly earnest manner. Often, his serious nature (which is clearly meant to provide many of the film’s laughs) falls short of any strong humour. However, all three actors, better known for more serious roles, are clearly enjoying themselves in these comedic roles.

Aside from the fact that all three of these actors share the screen for this film, there is really little else to give it any appeal. Director Peter Hewitt, whose past films include the unfortunate Garfield, has moments of success in portraying the monotony of Roger’s home life, but seems to lack much in the way of a comedic eye. The Heist itself is very much a paint-by-numbers theft, with the expected blunders giving nothing to its enjoyment and, when accompanied by the irritatingly repetitive soundtrack that lasts throughout the film, the end seems more like a relief than an exciting climax.

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