Movie Review

The Good Thief

He doesn't want money. He wants what money can't buy.
The Good Thief Movie Poster

US Release Date: 04-02-2003

Directed by: Neil Jordan


  • Nick Nolte
  • Bob
  • Gerard Darmon
  • Raoul
  • Ralph Fiennes
  • Art Dealer
  • Nutsa Kukhiani
  • Anne
  • Said Taghmaoui
  • Paulo
  • Tcheky Karyo
  • Roger
  • Emir Kusturica
  • Vladimir
  • Mark Polish
  • Albert
  • Michael Polish
  • Bertram
Reviewed on: April 4th, 2003
Nutsa Kukhiani and Nick Nolte in The Good Thief.

Nutsa Kukhiani and Nick Nolte in The Good Thief.

Neil Jordan is one of my favorite directors working today.  Looking at just some of his credits (The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire, The End of the Affair, Mona Lisa) you can see that his movies are always stylish and interesting.  With The Good Thief, while not as strong as some of his earlier work, Jordan again delivers a stylish and interesting movie.

The film is a loose remake of a 1955 French film (Bob le flambeur), but don't let that throw you.  Until I saw this movie I had never heard of the original.  In this version you have Nick Nolte as Bob, a thief and a gambler living in Nice, who is on the wrong end of a long losing streak.  When the movie opens Bob has bottomed out on gambling and heroin.  The beginning of his redemption comes in the form of a young prostitute whom he helps escape from an abusive pimp, and in an offer from an old friend to pull off another heist.

Oh sure, we've seen this all before, the caper movie with its gathering of the participants, the elaborate planning, the requisite high-tech security systems that must be bypassed, and all the rest of the heist movie standard plot devices.  Although with Jordan behind the camera, this movie differs from a movie like Ocean's Eleven for example, by featuring much deeper characters in much grittier surroundings.  None of these cast members, with the possible exception of Nutsa Kukhiani who plays Anne, the young prostitute, are ever going to appear in the pages of a fashion magazine. Does the gritty style of the film make for a better movie?  Not necessarily, but it does make it stand out from the pack.

The heist itself involves the theft of a large quantity of paintings from a casino in Monte Carlo on the eve of the Grand Prix.  The trick is that the casino is only housing exact reproductions of the paintings while the originals are stored in a vault in a different location.  The plan then is to stage a false heist at the Casino, to make the police, who are watching Bob closely, believe that here is the real target, while the actual heist takes place at the vault.

To finance the operation, Bob sells a painting that he claims was painted by Picasso, but which turns out to be a forgery.  The true turning out to be false, and the constant reference to reproductions makes me wonder if in some way Jordan isn't poking fun at the thought that his movie is really a reproduction of an original.

While I've never been a big fan of Nolte, here he turns in a very nice performance as the aging thief.  I particularly enjoyed the last half-hour of the movie in the casino when Bob, with Anne on his arm, discovers that his luck has finally changed.  The movie does move a little slowly at  the beginning, but I think this is exagarated by the fact that we have seen some of this stuff before in other movies.  And I certainly felt that the payoff made up for the slow start.

The Good Thief is a stylish and interesting movie from one of the most reliable directors working today.