Good Thief [2002/I]

When Neil Jordan is really on his game, as he is with The Good Thief, his directorial skill is a marvel to behold. In the character-driven mode of Jordan's Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, this smooth, underrated caper provides an abundance of cinematic riches, not the least being Jordan's peerless knack for dialogue and a tailor-made role for Nick Nolte. For better or worse, Nolte's off-screen drug abuse served him well in portraying Bob Montagnet, ace thief, recovering heroin addict, and beloved denizen of the French Riviera, where his luck is about to take some very clever turns. The elegant plot is yours to discover: In loosely remaking the French classic Bob le Flambeur, Jordan crafts what one reviewer aptly called "the underbelly of Ocean's Eleven," involving an impenetrable vault full of priceless art, a rescued Russian prostitute, an eccentric band of accomplices, and high-stakes poker in Monte Carlo. Nolte's right at home in this rich-and-risky milieu, and the combined talents of Jordan and ace cinematographer Chris Menges make The Good Thief a pleasure from start to finish. --Jeff Shannon

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