Brent Walker Productions 1981.

Before watching the movie:

I think it was Martin Sheen leading the movie that caught my attention, but I’m interested in seeing his character accidentally fall into helping a crime gang, as well as Albert Finney as the mastermind.

I thought this was going to be more comic, but it seems to be listed as heist drama.

After watching the movie:

Stephen Brooker’s architectural partnership, having failed to get the big contract they’ve been chasing, is forced to dissolve, leaving him without a job right as his wife has committed to a new interior design venture. His family lifestyle was already spiraling beyond his means before losing his income, and he’s so overqualified for the jobs that are available that nobody will hire him. Then Daniels offers him a job ostensibly about adding three floors to his office building, and Brooker assures his wife that everything can go on as planned, and gets to work. When Brooker finds out the office was rented, Daniels levels with him: the real job he wants Brooker’s expertise for is calculating the exact spot in the London sewers to tunnel into the International Securities Bank’s safe deposit vault. Brooker initially refuses, but with the bank and his wife pressuring him to get money fast, he reluctantly agrees to join Daniels’ team.

I wouldn’t say this is quite a procedural story, but it does feel entirely on rails. There are some setbacks that happen during the heist, but they’re set up a matter of minutes before they fall into place, and don’t really seem to cause actual problems. And it seems that everyone complains about the end, with good reason. The last few minutes feel like they had to get the movie out the door, so they grabbed one and a half completed scenes to show Brooker’s outcome.

I’m not sure there was any music in the movie. I do know that several scenes, especially tense scenes, were unscored for a very dry effect. Sometimes hanging on a quiet scene for a long time for tension without any music is the opposite of engaging direction.

In many heist stories, especially modern ones, the audience is given a reason why the only victim of the crime deserves it. This is usually in the form of reassurance that everyone’s accounts are safe, it’s only the fatcat bankers that are out the money, or the bank is insured, it’s just a loss for the insurance company. I’m not entirely comfortable with how, in this heist, they’re robbing the bank customers’ safe deposit boxes. Ultimately the bank will be the big loser, but no effort is made to suggest that the audience should not empathize with the customers, just that we should empathize with the robbers more because we know them and they’re likable people. If the movie showed more evidence of being thoughtful, I might assume there was a statement being made about relative morality.

Sheen and Finney are both kind of just there. Sheen gets opportunities to act because he’s a protagonist in a difficult situation, but once he decides to go though with it, he’s just as much along for the ride as everyone else. Robert Morley has two scenes as his bank loan officer and stands out more than anyone because he’s Robert Morley.

The plot is a bit by the numbers and the drama leading up to the heist is arguably more worthwhile than the heist itself, but the complicated plan and its execution are still interesting, and Brooker’s story is compelling at least until he joins the gang. This is not an objectionable piece of entertainment, but I’m not in a hurry to watch it again.

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