Directed by Neil Jordan, starring Nick Nolte, Nutsa Kukhanidze, Tchéky Karyo, Kathleen McClellan, Ralph Fiennes, Saïd Taghmaoui, Gérard Darmon, Marc Lavoine, Emir Kusturica, Ouassini Embarek and Ralph Fiennes.
While this heist movie shouldn't really work, Nick Nolte, the Good Thief of the title, just about manages to pull it off. Written and directed by Neil Jordan, the film is a loose remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's fifties classic 'Bob le Flambeur' - itself an homage to the American film noir of the forties. It's also something of a Europudding. Take one Irish director, add an American star, a handful of character actors from all corners of the EU, a Georgian ingénue, mix carefully on the French Rivera and see what happens...
The world weary Bob (Nolte) is a down-on-his-luck former thief, addicted to drink, drugs and gambling. Just as he hits rock bottom he meets teen prostitute Anne (a devil-may-care performance from Kukhanidze), encounters policeman and former nemesis Roger (Karyo) who doesn't believe that Bob has left his days of crime behind, and a plan for a highly complicated Monte Carlo casino heist falls in his lap.
Although it initially takes all the powers of persuasion of his old friend Raul (Daramon) and the hero-worshipping Paulo (Taghmaoui), Bob can't resist the lure of one last job. He handcuffs himself to the bed and goes cold turkey, sells his beloved Picasso to Tony Angel (a fine-tuned cameo by Finnes) and assembles a motley, yet skilled, crew of fellow criminals to carry out the job.
But the sharks are circling. Anne's former pimp Remi (Lavoine) still bears a grudge against Bob, Roger is determined to find out - and stop - what he is up to and Anne is being fed drugs by Said (Embarek) in return for information about the heist. Bob's got nothing left to lose - and everything to play for.
It's far from the slick, sleek, shiny 'Ocean's Eleven', but 'The Good Thief' has an odd crumpled charm all of its own. Cinematographer Chris Menges and Jordan shot the film mainly at night using handheld cameras, immersing the viewer in the dark seedy underbelly of the Côte d'Azur, showing the shadowy corners behind the glitz and blue skies.
Where Soderberg's film was predominantly focused on the heist, Jordan is more interested in the relationships between his characters: the developing regard between Bob and Anne, policeman Roger's bemused affection for Bob, the way that Paulo looks up to his hero. Jordan never lets Nolte's roguish knight-errant stop talking as he muses on mathematical theory, gambling, art criticism and tells tall tales about his past as his present unfolds around him. It's a performance that looks effortless and Nolte relishes every moment.
While the pacing sometimes suffers for this character development and there are some decidedly odd moments - the Polish brothers ('Twin Falls Idaho') playing identical twins but, for some reason, using Irish accents - 'The Good Thief' is still smart, funny and standout.