The Good Thief
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     The one-line Hollywood pitch for this film would be, "Ocean's Eleven with a French accent." The Good Thief, in the great tradition of heist films like Ocean's Eleven, involves a gang of seeming misfits who try to rob a casino.  This time the casino is in Monte Carlo and the Danny Ocean character is Bob Montagnet (Nick Nolte) whose history is never clear since we hear several different versions during the movie.  Bob is a gambler, a drunk and an ex-burglar. Gambling and drinking have him hitting rock bottom, so when an opportunity for a big score appears, he comes out of retirement.  But, like Danny Ocean, Bob is so well known that he has a cop (Tchéky Karyo) following him almost before he has started to plan the heist.  The plan is either to steal the money from the casino vault or to steal the high-priced art from its walls or, well, since this is a twisty, turny heist flick, you are never sure what the plan is.  Bob's Algerian-French protege,  Paulo ( Said Taghmaoui), a young eastern-european woman (Nino Kukhanidze), and bunch of other French and Algerian low-lifes fill out the gang.  Oh ya, there's also a pair of identical twins.  But unlike Adaptation, where the twins are the result of extensive post-production, the twins in The Good Thief are produced the old fashioned way. They are two actual identical twins (Mark and Michael Polish).
     Even though The Good Thief is populated by a similar number of wacky characters as Ocean's Eleven was, most of them aren't given much character development.  And The Good Thief isn't about having fun like Ocean's Eleven was.  But it is interesting and most of the interest comes from Nick Nolte as Bob. This is a great role for him and he makes the most of it.  Nolte's trademark gravelly voice is even more gravelly here and when combined with all the other weird accents in this movie, made me wish it had subtitles.  Nolte is helped along by new face, Kukhanidze, who shows she can really act by keeping up with him throughout the film.  Karyo, who is also in The Core, also does well as the cop who is obsessed with catching Bob in the act.  Ralph Fiennes has a very small part as a nasty money lender.
     Another thing, that The Good Thief has in common with Ocean's Eleven, is a great director.  The Good Thief is directed by Neil Jordan, most famous for The Crying Game.  He has also directed Mona Lisa, Interview With The Vampire, and The End of the Affair.  Jordan can really do atmosphere and The Good Thief is very atmospheric.  I think the screenplay was good although like I said, I would have enjoyed the dialog better with subtitles. The plot gets murkier and murkier as the movie goes on but Nolte saves this film with his force-of-nature acting.  Nick Nolte's performance in The Good Thief, along with Frances McDormand's performance in Laurel Canyon are my first two Oscar nominations for 2003.