This 1999 movie directed by Joel Schumacher is a kind of hackneyed romance with a twist. You know the drill: two mismatched characters meet, hate each other, learn to love one another, break up, and are reunited at the end.

The twist is that it's never consummated because the characters are Walt Koontz (Robert De Niro), a homophobic retired New York cop fallen into depression after a stroke renders his whole left side useless and his speech severely slurred; and Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a flamboyant drag queen saving up for sex reassignment surgery. The pair live in the same fleabag hotel in Manhattan, and Walt pays Rusty to give him singing lessons as a kind of speech therapy.

These are two good actors, and they do a credible job here. Some critics complain that Hoffman's character is over the top, but this criticism seems silly to me: he's a drag queen, for god's sake, that's how they are! Likewise, those who find De Niro's character wooden seem to be missing the point: he's half-paralyzed and can hardly speak: how emotive can he be?

Good performances aside, this movie is hampered by Schumacher's script, which is littered with extraneous plot lines involving stereotypical characters that detract and confuse: there's the fellow residents of the building (the weird old lady in the wheelchair, the bad guitar player mumbling songs about every lost love); there's a heartless drug lord shaking down everyone in the building looking for his lost cache; there's a drag queen beauty contest (for Miss Flawless, hence the film title) that engenders nasty fights amongst the contestants; there's a posse of gay Republicans trying to convince the drag queens to not be so - well, gay; there's a dance club once frequented by Walt with two prostitutes, one who he favoured who dumps him now he's disabled, one who he shunned who has a heart of gold... I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Too much going on for no real purpose.

I enjoyed this movie primarily for Hoffman's performance, but that's the best part of it. Only watch this if you're bored and there's nothing better to do.

Why do you want to steal from the company?
Who said I did?
Hypothetically.
War and plunder, the two most reliable sources of income.

Laura Quinn and Mr. Hobbs

Flawless, the 2007 version, is a film directed by Michael Radford and written by Edward Anderson. It is a heist movie, of which genre I am an unabashed fan, albeit not connoisseur. In the tradition of all good heist movies (as opposed to caper movies) there is a goal, a target, a plan, a conspiracy, a sleuth, and then the moment where it all goes pear-shaped.

The plot, of both kinds

Laura Quinn (Demi Moore) is a driven, smart, ambitious woman. She's an American living in England in the 1960s, having been educated at Oxford and impressed her schoolmates. She works for the London Diamond Exchange, a ruthless multinational cartel which controls the flow of diamonds through the world markets and works tirelessly to maintain their premium prices. Based, as far as I can tell, on various entities including De Beers and the London Diamond Bourse & Club, this fictional(?) entity has one enormous problem as an employer - it's a ruthless old boy's club. As Ms. Quinn (38 years of age and still unmarried) reminds herself in a memo to herself very early in the movie, it contains 1,223 subsidiaries around the world, and zero female directors of said subsidiaries.

She has been passed over for promotion many times when the film starts. She is approached by Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine), the kindly janitor who maintains the premises and has for years, with a startling bit of news about her career - and then with a startling proposal. Live the life she deserves on the company, by helping him abscond with a thermos-full of diamonds - a pittance the company might never notice, given the mounds and tons of them in the central vault.

She doesn't want to do it. But then again, maybe she does.

The heist is carried off, despite several last-minute hitches, by the middle of the film, if not slightly earlier. There are the expected tense moments, but all is well. Eventually, Ms. Quinn is called into the vault to join the senior directors.

And that's when things start to go quite, quite wrong for her.

I won't give you more than that. There's a twist, a pursuit (if not a chase), and a big reveal. Demi Moore really cannot act at all, which is all right as she's quite good at being stylishly decorative, but Mr. Caine is his lovable self. Lambert Wilson does an admirable job as the insurance agent set to solve the crime, and there is the expected cast of elder ruffians including the delightfully evil Joss Ackland and a man I recognized immediately by his lips - Derren Nesbitt of Where Eagles Dare and The Prisoner fame (if you've seen those two, you'll know who I mean immediately).

It's a workaday heist movie. I hadn't expected the twist, and while I did end up guessing the basic parameters of the ending, the particulars were more fun to just let come. It's not a great heist movie, though - it does a bit too much behind-the-scenes trickery that's revealed later (which is how The Illusionist ruined itself. Rule one of a thriller or heist movie: don't save *too much* for the 'how they did it' sequence) but it still comes off all right. The 1960s is carried off well in a cloud of cigarette smoke, awful fake wood paneling and some nice Triumphs on the streets.

Really, this is worth a Netflix rental, or maybe even a streaming video rental on demand. Luckily for us, that's where it's now available. You won't come out the other end thinking you've seen something memorable, but you will come out the other end having been pleasantly diverted for a couple of hours.

Flawless (2007)

Cast:

Laura Quinn: Demi Moore
Mr. Hobbs: Michael Caine
Mr. Finch: Lambert Wilson
Sir Milton Kendrick Ashtoncroft: Joss Ackland
Sir Clifton Sinclair: Derren Nesbitt

Flaw"less, a.

Free from flaws.

Boyle.

 

© Webster 1913.

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