Even though it wasn’t intended to be a comedy, the new jewel-heist movie “Flawless” is nevertheless entirely hilarious. Consider this: Michael Caine, playing an ambitious janitor (!) named Hobbs, has obtained the code to open a huge vault at the London Diamond Corporation, inside of which, as he’s earlier noted, lies “one of the largest single deposits of riches in the world.” Hobbs intends to break in there and fill up his workingman’s thermos bottle (!) with jewels. But the vault is situated at the end of a very long basement corridor. It’s monitored by a security camera up near the ceiling. How can Hobbs make it all the way down that corridor, pause to dial in the code, pull open the vault’s enormous door and slip inside without being seen?
Simple, really. As Hobbs makes his way toward the vault, in full view of the camera, the guard whose job it is to watch the monitor on which Caine’s appearance is now evident suddenly becomes distracted — by a biscuit! Which he proceeds to eat, very, very slowly. By the time the guard looks up again, Caine has disappeared inside the vault. What luck!
But wait. Having slipped inside the vault, Hobbs must of course somehow slip back out again. Impossible? Not at all. As he makes his way back down the corridor — once again, in full view of the security camera — the guard watching the monitor suddenly becomes engrossed in … a cupcake! Which he snarfles down, once again, very, very slowly.
It gets better. Hobbs has obtained the vault code from a disaffected company executive, a prim Englishwoman named Laura, who’s played by Demi Moore (!). (Okay, toward the end of the movie we’re suddenly informed that she’s actually an American who went to Oxford and stayed on. Unfortunately, this introduces a whole new level of improbability.) Laura obtained the code from the home safe of the company’s chairman. How? Well, while she was rooting around in his den during a cocktail party at which she was a guest, she heard footsteps approaching, and quickly scurried up some stairs to a dark balcony. The chairman entered and crouched down in front of his safe. If only Laura could see what numbers he was going to enter to open it. Looking around, she noticed a pair of opera glasses lying on the railing right in front of her — what luck! She used these to eyeball the safe’s combination as the chairman dialed it and subsequently pilfered the vault code.
It gets better. How did Hobbs peg the high-toned Laura, of all people, as a perfect potential partner in this heist? Well, she’d just been passed over for promotion for the umpteenth time, and she was bitter about it. How did Hobbs know this? Because Laura, an ice queen with no friends, vented her feelings by writing them down in letters and addressing them — to herself! Hobbs simply intercepted these missives, somehow, and made his approach. Naturally, a preliminary meeting was then in order, and what better place to hold it than in a movie theater, where the unlikely duo’s incriminating conversation, conducted at normal walking-down-the-street volume, drew not the slightest notice from their fellow patrons, who were as absorbed in the movie being screened as if it were a cupcake.
It’s not finished getting better. Hobbs doesn’t just steal a thermos-full of diamonds from the vault; he steals its entire contents — enough jewels to fill a good-size truck. I won’t reveal the method by which he does this; let’s just say it’s entirely hilarious. Then Hobbs — who, again, is a lowly janitor — anonymously hires a very upper-crust corporate lawyer to negotiate a ransom demand for the diamonds with the company chairman. I guess this could happen.
The movie is sluggish and juiceless, which is surely why it’s only creeping into theaters now, two years after it was shot. Michael Caine is always good, but here he has to deal with Demi Moore, possibly a challenge. And any attempted thriller that makes the enormous miscalculation of failing to show us how the heist is brought off will have a lot to answer for on the great day of cinematic reckoning. (Hobbs enters the vault, then leaves it, and we see nothing of what he did inside until the end of the film, when there’s a quick flashback recap.) At least the picture’s title is apt — as a work of seamless implausibility it is, indeed, without any redeeming flaw.Read Kurt Loder’s new review of “21.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Flawless.”
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