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, January 30, 2013

The Maiden Heist

Originally intended for a theatrical release, 2009's The Maiden Heist had no such luck. Its studio went bankrupt before it could actually be released and never saw the light of day in theaters. Thankfully, it eventually found an audience (however small) on DVD. The end result? An enjoyable, pretty harmless comedy caper aided by a very talented cast.

Working as a security guard for a Boston art museum, Roger (Christopher Walken) has a bit of an obsession. He loves, loves a painting titled The Lonely Maiden, a picture of a woman looking off into the distance on a sandy beach. Now though, he's got a problem. Many pieces from the museum have been sold to another museum in Denmark, including The Lonely Maiden. Roger can't bear to imagine life without it, but he's not alone. Two other security guards, Charles (Morgan Freeman) and George (William H. Macy), similarly have fallen hard for two other pieces of art and don't want to see them go. What to do then? These three men who have always lived on the straight and narrow decide there's only one thing to do....steal the paintings for themselves. Can these three amateur crooks pull off the job?

This is a movie that's best watched on a rainy weekend afternoon when there's nothing better to do. It's funny but it isn't hilarious. It's goofy but not stupid...thankfully. The story takes some odd jumps in sequence that reflect a quasi-cheap feeling, making me think 'Heist' was a straight-to-DVD flick at first. It's apparent from the start how things will go. These three middle-aged to older men are all a little nuts, all a lot obsessed with paintings that strike them right down to their cores. How could three amateur crooks pull off the job? In the real world, no chance in hell. But it's a movie! In other words, you know they'll get away with it, overcoming all sorts of goofiness, misunderstandings, and general wackiness. Just sit back and enjoy. You won't strain yourself.

There's got to be a reason to see this flick though, and that's the cast. Surprising, huh? It would be very hard to put Walken, Freeman and Macy together in a movie and for it to not be worthwhile even a little. Walken is Walken, that kinda offbeat, schizo acting style highlighted by his especially unique speech patterns. Macy hams it up as George, the former Marine and veteran of the Grenada campaign. His art obsession? A sculpture of a nude Greek warrior. George strips down naked and poses next to it. Creepy? A little, but it's oddly funny. Middle-aged guy nudity played for a laugh too with some Macy butt scenes. I know, what Hollywood has been craving all these years! The best part is Freeman as Charles, a gay (I think?) security guard who can paint/draw/scribble his favorite painting with his eyes closed. It's his mannerisms, his speech, they all add up to some really funny lines and scenes as the trio of amateur crooks work together to pull off the job.

It is a heist movie -- however tame -- and that ends up being the best part of the movie. The build-up and intro takes about 45 minutes, and then we're off to the heist. The trio decides to pull the job during the move, replacing the originals with forgeries. Naturally, not everything goes as expected or planned, one thing after another coming up to throw them off their plan. There is a good twist late, but it doesn't come as a huge surprise by any means.

The laughs are there too, especially the opening scene as Walken's Roger daydreams about defending his painting from a heavily-armed team of mercenaries. Watch it HERE. A running gag about signing off a walky-talky with 'Roger...Roger' is funny if used too much, and a hypothetical walk-through of the museum (Charles constructs a scale version with a chess set and cereal boxes) produces some laughs. There's some odd moments too, like Breckin Meyer's one-scene appearance as a starving artist (maybe 90 seconds all told), and Marcia Gay Harden as Roger's shrill wife who wants a Florida vacation and accidentally threatens the heist. Pretty forgettable but still enjoyable enough. Worth a watch if nothing else, just don't expect a classic.

The Maiden Heist (2009): ** 1/2 /****

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