Set against the glitzy backdrop of the French Riviera, aging gambler Bob Montagnet is about to gamble it all on the casino heist of a lifetime; a spectatcular sleight of hand--two heists, one real, one not, but which is which? Under the watchful eye of Roger, a policeman who would as soon save his longtime opponent as arrest him, Montagnet assembles a team that consists of partners Paulo and Raoul, technical mastermind Vladimer, former-drug-dealer-turned-informant Said, Anne, a young Eastern girl Montagnet rescued from prostitution, and the perfect complement to a double theft--identical twins Albert and Bertram. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
It Began in Afrika
Performed by The Chemical Brothers
Contains samples from "Drumbeat"
Performed by Jim Ingram
Courtesy of Stax Records/Fantasy Inc.
Licensed courtesy of Virgin Records Ltd.
Used by kind permission of Universal/MCA Music Ltd. See more »
Remakes are repugnant in principle, but they can occasionally be worthwhile, if the people making them actually have something new to say. That's definitely the case with The Good Thief.
Jean-Pierre Melville's 1956 Bob le Flambeur is a quirky but masterful film. It's also flawed in many ways. Its most obvious limitation is the leading man, Roger Duchesne, who clearly lacks the charisma required by the part. Melville worked on the cheap, and couldn't afford a big-name star. Neil Jordan rectifies that problem beautifully; Nick Nolte is absolutely the perfect choice to play Bob Montagné.
Bob le Flambeur also has a very peculiar loping pace, which adds to its charm, but works against its logic. Things in Melville's films seem to happen almost at random; characters often come and go, win or lose, for little obvious reason. Jordan adds several levels to Meleville's original plot, making it flow more smoothly and rationally. In the process, he turns The Good Thief into a rather different film - more of a complex heist caper, compared to Melville's simpler mood piece.
Nonetheless, The Good Thief does retain Melville's fundamental affection for the central character. In fact, we get a deeper look at Bob, who has now added a drug habit to his other vices. Jordan also does a lot more work to 'sell' the original ending. He gives us a more explicit interpretation - it's all about doing things with style. This is Jordan's personal commentary on a film he obviously admires.
Of course, despite its flaws (or perhaps because of them), Bob le Flambeur is clearly a ground-breaking masterpiece. The Good Thief is not. It's merely a very good film - likable, clever, insightful, less frustrating and far more entertaining than the original. It's not so much a remake as a reinterpretation. It deepens our appreciation of the original, but also stands alone as a fine work in its own right.
In short, I'd recommend both films very highly. See Bob le Flambeur when you're in the mood for a breakthrough art film, graced with moody black-and-white photography of 1950s Paris. See The Good Thief when you'd prefer a colorful caper film with strong characters and some real philosophical depth.
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