Judge Chris Claro lets his guard down for this comedy.
They're not bad guys, just bad thieves.
Every once in a while, a title comes along with little or no fanfare, absent any marketing or promotion, that piques the interest and causes a sharp-eyed viewer to wonder how such a film could slide by unnoticed. The Maiden Heist is the epitome of such titles.
Boasting a cast of Oscar winners Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter), and Marsha Gay Harden (Pollock), and Oscar nominee William H. Macy (Fargo), The Maiden Heist seems tailor-made for at least a token theatrical release. So what happened? As usual, the fact that The Maiden Heist never made it to the multiplex had to do with money. A confluence of evaporating funds and bankrupt financiers conspired to keep the film off of theater screens. (The detailed story about the film's pursuit of a theatrical release can be found in an excellent piece from NPR, linked in the Accomplices section on the right)
The real question, whether or not The Maiden Heist ever made it to the multiplex, is whether the film is worth a watch.
Facts of the Case
Roger (Walken), Charles (Freeman), and George (Macy) are longtime guards in a Boston art museum. When the museum announces that it is going to ship one of its collections to a Danish museum, the three guards, each having grown to love various pieces in the collection, devise a scheme to keep it from going overseas. It is that wisp of a plot on which The Maiden Heist hangs its shaggy, minimal charms, as the three heroes contrive a caper that—naturally—goes bad before it goes good, and weaves mismatched crates, art-school-level reproductions, and even a little public nudity into the mix.
The problem with The Maiden Heist lies in its script and the motivation—or lack thereof—for the characters' behavior. Though these three stars could breathe life into a recitation of a grocery list, the film is generally a wan and listless affair with little justification for the guards' zealous possessiveness of the artworks. From the legwork to the caper's execution, originality is in short supply. One has to hand it to director Peter Hewitt (Zoom, Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey) for trying, though—particularly in the clever stop-motion animation sequence of chess pieces used to depict the planning of the heist.
Freeman, Walken, and Macy, along with Marsha Gay Harden—a borderline caricature as Walken's wife—all work hard, never condescending to the inanities of the script and always attempting to imbue their underwritten characters with purpose. Unfortunately, it comes mostly to naught, as The Maiden Heist devolves into broad silliness as it makes its way to its sweet but pointless ending.
Visually, the film is uninspired: its look is weighed down by bland, cheap-looking production design. The sound mix is clean, with dialogue playing nicely against the off-kilter heist-movie score by Rupert Gregson-Williams (You Don't Mess with the Zohan).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Though the film itself disappoints, the extras on The Maiden Heist are bountiful. The disc features a making-of featurette, a passel full of deleted scenes with accompanying commentary, and a feature-length commentary with director Hewitt, screenwriter Michael LeSieur (You, Me, and Dupree), and producer Rob Paris in which the triumvirate discuss the trials of shooting on location in the frigid Boston winter and prove once again that filmmakers toil just as hard to pump out a mediocre flick as they do to make a classic.
I wish I could say that The Maiden Heist achieves Hewitt's stated goal of emulating the classic Ealing comedies of the 1950s. Unfortunately, it amounts to a minimally charming time-waster that will go down as a misfire on the resumes of all involved.
Guilty, by reason of disappointment.
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