The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Over the last several seasons, Mad Men has helped rejuvenate the style of the 1950s with the ongoing story of a 50s advertising agency.  It's easy to look back on the time and get nostalgic for a simpler time.  But watching old TV shows or movies, the thing that appeals to me is the style, the suits and hats, the almost constant smoking, boozing 24-7, all that cool stuff.   Sometime in the 60s, all that style went out the window and in came the hippies.

Set in 1960 London, 2007's Flawless oozes the style and coolness of that period.  The fact that it is a heist movie is just a cherry on top for me.  Filmed in London -- along with locations in France and Luxemborg --, Flawless is one of the most low-key heist movies I've ever seen to the point where you could call it boring (but I'm not going to do that).  It is an epically slow-build, even after the heist, as director Michael Radford is in absolutely no rush to get where he's going.  There's something appealing about the story in its simplicity that throws you for a curve from the first scene and keeps on going.

As the lone female employee at the London Diamond Company, Laura Quinn (Demi Moore) faces obvious problems that will never let her rise any higher in the company despite her knowledge and intelligence.  Bottom line? She's a woman, and she won't be getting that promotion anytime soon.  Laura is beyond frustrated with her career and doesn't see any way out or solution to her problem.  But one day, the night janitor, a man known only as Hobbs (Michael Caine), approaches her with information and more importantly, a plan.  Hobbs is retiring soon and has hatched a plan to rob the basement vault of a thermos full of diamonds, but he needs help in getting a vault code.  Laura refuses at first, but when she finds out she is going to be fired soon -- for doing something right that will help the company -- she agrees to become an accomplice.

For all the flaws this movie has -- pun intended -- the main reason to see this is easily summed up...Michael Caine. Now 77 years old, Caine is still chugging along turning out strong movies and better than that, strong roles.   Playing a Cockney janitor is basically a strike right over the plate for him, but what's wrong with doing what you're good at?   Like few other actors, he can play the everyman or he can take on the aristocratic, upper class characters.   Hobbs' motivations are not as simple as the one he gives to Laura, but that's part of the fun of the second half of the movie.  As viewers, we know Hobbs is up to something and not telling us everything we need to know, but what exactly is his master plan?  The reveal isn't what I was expecting, but in making the character a little more noble, the character and the movie end on a more positive note.

Back in the movies again after taking a hiatus in the late 90s and early 00s, Moore gets the starring role here.  She's always taken heat for her acting ability (some of which stems from her choice of roles), but with the right story and character she can be a really strong actress.  A female employee looking to get ahead when no one around her is going to offer her a hand is one of those characters.  She's easy to root for because you feel for her situation.  Other than the fact that her American character has an English accent, I found little faults in the part.  It was entertaining though to see the script try and dull down her appearance with bland colors, facial makeup and even a little gray through the hair.  Say what you want about her acting, but Demi Moore is nice to look at, plain and simple, and it's hard to hide that.

The mystery of the second hour keeps us guessing up until the end because we only see part of the heist, getting into and out of the vault through a 1960s "high tech" security system, cameras and all.  That middle part in the vault, that's left out until the end.  The explanation is a little disappointing and some holes start to sprout as to how exactly the job is pulled off, but for me it was almost secondary.  Hobbs' explanation for why he performed the heist is better than how he did it.  All that aside, the tension is handled well as Laura keeps on waiting for some sort of evidence that will pin the crime on her.  A detective (Lambert Wilson) leads the investigation, making Laura wonder if he knows everything that's going on or nothing at all and is fishing for info. 

The cast is very strong, the setting and style brings the movie up a notch or two, and it's hard to ruin a heist story, but the story may be a little bit too slow.  I was never close to turning it off or giving up, but at times, it is painfully slow.  Laura makes some decisions that seem mind-bogglingly stupid, and Hobbs keeps her guessing, all the while as the investigation continues.  The ending similarly works, but goes for too much of a happy ending.  It certainly is a twist from the opening scene, but not in a 'AHA!' sort of way.  Just one that makes you smile a little like you've been duped.  Still, it's a heist movie with Michael Caine, and his performance alone is worth checking this one out.

Flawless <----trailer (2007): ** 1/2 /****
Watch the whole movie starting HERE

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