DVD Pick: Maiden Heist

Maiden Heist DVDMy friends and I saw this movie on Halloween night. Since nobody’s keen on watching a horror flick, we stumbled upon this one as we’re browsing the Redbox site. The biggest draws were the main actors: Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman and William H. Macy. You’d think that with names like those it’d be a dark drama or intense thriller, but the fact that it was billed as a comedy was even more of a draw.

Here’s the gist: Walken (Roger), Freeman (Charles) and Macy (George) play three Boston art museum security guards who, over the years, have become attached (or obsessed to be more accurate) to the artwork they protect. Upon learning that their beloved pieces are being transferred to a Denmark museum, they concoct a plan to “steal” them so they don’t have to part with them.

Macy, Freeman & Walken the trio of museum thieves
Macy, Freeman & Walken – the trio of museum thieves

With not much going on in their lives, they spend their days staring into their beloved paintings, or in the case of ex-military George, it involves saluting a nude ‘bronze warrior’ statue in the exact same pose. So yes, Mr. Macy is definitely very, very proud of his athletic physique as we get more than our fair share of seeing him in the buff. The caper mission undoubtedly give the three new-found friends something to live for. It’s a crazy and ludicrous idea, and we’re on for a ride to see how — or if — they can pull this off.

The Die-Hard-ish opening sequence made me think this was going to be an action-packed film, but after that sequence ends, the movie moves along at a rather sluggish pace, save for the last 15-20 minute of the ending. But despite that foible, the movie is still comical and entertaining because of the excellent cast. They’re all in top form, even if the script is far from perfect. In fact, they make the most of the thinly-written characters they’re given into something well worth-watching.

It’s such a hoot to see Walken plays an average, low-profile husband who loves & even submits to his demanding, high maintenance wife (Marcia Gay Harden in a rather over-the-top performance). He usually plays such an eccentric or even freaky kind of roles, so it’s nice to see him play a ‘real’ guy, though still not without his quirks. It’s such a pleasant surprise to see Freeman’s goofy side as the skittish and somewhat effeminate Charles. Gone is the respectable and judicious wise man we’re accustomed to see him play, and the actor seems to be having fun relishing in his comedic flair. Bill Macy also delivers a terrifically wacky performance — a lot of the time sans clothes — that deliver the funniest bits in the movie (no pun intended).

The scenes of the three of them together are the most fun to watch. There’s the hilarious scene involving a physically-demanding military-like practice led by George, which makes their plan look even more dubious. I also love the part where the three of them sit on a bench in a park with Charles holding a big cotton candy whilst the paranoid & delirious George gets all jumpy about someone finding out about their secret plan. The heist itself is quite fun and genuinely suspenseful. The moment when George almost gets discovered by a security guard in the warehouse that sends the already fidgety Charles into a state of frenzy is downright funny.

Charles & George in a top-secret rendezvous

But these great moments are underscored by how uneven the whole movie is. And the biggest problem for me is that the whole thing lacks momentum to build the audience’s excitement throughout. There are times when it dragged on and on with not much pay-off to justify it. Nonetheless, the performances of these three actors made it a worthwhile flix for me, especially if you enjoy caper-type comedies.

On a side note, I learned that this movie went straight to dvd with no theatrical release. LA Times pondered how three Oscar winners equals to one straight-to-video movie. “It’s why I always end up wondering each year what happened to some of the delightful little movies I saw at the Toronto Film Festival that never ended up seeing the light of day.” Which reminds me to another Chris Walken flix, a musical, I happen to catch at TIFF that also never made it to theaters: Romance & Cigarettes. Directed by John Turturro who introduced the film — apologizing for showing such a raunchy film at 11 o’clock in the morning — it boasts an even more impressive cast: James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon, Mandy Moore, Steve Buscemi and Christopher Walken. The MGM/Sony studios legal mess was reportedly the culprit, which goes to show that not only is it challenging to make a movie, but to get it in front of the audience can be an even trickier battle.

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