Ageing burglar Nick is cajoled into cracking one last safe by his eccentric middleman, Max, to steal a priceless sceptre. This time, though, the heist will break Nicks cardinal rules by taking place on his own turf and involving a young partner in Jack.
So, we have a craggy safe-cracker, world-weary and set on retirement, in that Robert De Niro manner. As played by Robert De Niro. Then we have his rookie understudy, a shifty whatsit who riffs on an imbecile scam, you know, in that Edward Norton style. Hes played by Edward Norton. Then we get a camp, bloated old fence, a wacky cameo-type role in classic Marlon Brando tradition. Played by Marlon Brando. All in a chic, atmospheric heist plot that is pure Michael Mann. And the film is directed by Yoda?
To be fair, Frank Oz (who voiced the pea-green Jedi) does a sturdy job in creating an edgy, slowburn 70s mood for his thriller. Its just that everything feels like its going through the motions.
The Score is screamingly competent and completely uninspired.
De Niro is simply strolling through another inbetween role, requiring him to do no more than bristle and scowl. As ever with Brando, its never entirely clear what hes up to you get the impression this flagging dandy routine was designed purely to piss off his director. Its great to see him sharing the screen with De Niro (first time ever!), but the loose, impro-mood dialogue fires no sparks. Norton, at least, adds some gusto, mixing up a retard schtick with the edgy upstart to produce the meatiest character on show.
In its defence, the film is a damn sight better than most of the creatively moribund, brainless blockbusters reeled off over the summer. The lengthy heist sequence that dominates the final third boasts some cool reworkings of the classic safe-cracking routines.
Indeed, there is a grubby realism to all the criminal activity here, instilled by an on-set ex-con who subsequently went down in an FBI sting. Yet, as the closing credits slip onto the screen, theres a sense of deflation, that surely some further dimension is still to reveal itself. And there is but one conclusion to be made from this triple-decker of pan-generational heroes is that it?
With this kind of billing, youre hardly going to get Dude, Wheres My Safe? But the incredible potential has been squandered on something depressingly precise, reliable and unambitious. Like a Volvo.