US / 96 minutes / color / Millennium, Nu Image, Saturn Dir: Simon West Pr: Rene Besson, Jesse Kennedy, Matthew Joynes Scr: David Guggenheim Cine: Jim Whitaker Cast: Nicolas Cage, Josh Lucas, Danny Huston, Malin Akerman, Sami Gayle, Edrick Browne, Mark Valley, Barry Shabaka Henley, M.C. Gainey, Garrett Hines, Tanc Sade, Dan Braverman, Jon Eyez.
A movie that’s filled with noirish tropes—it begins with an extended heist sequence of length and ambition comparable to such classic equivalents as that in The ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950)!—yet has more the taste of a caper. It’s fast and entertaining fun, relying on its pace and narrative flair to ease the viewer past rather more by way of egregious plot holes than there should be.
The heist is of a New Orleans bank and is conducted by a gang led by Will “Gum” Montgomery (Cage); the rest of the team are Vincent “Vince” Kinsey (Lucas), Donald Hoyt (Gainey) and Riley Jeffers (Akerman). What they don’t know is that the feds, led by Agent Tim Harlend (Huston), have received a tipoff about the job and have the place—or what proves to be the wrong place—under observation. By the time the feds realize what’s going on, Gum and Vince have cracked the vault and are on their way back to the getaway van, where Riley and Hoyt await, with $10,000,000 in cash. But they run into a janitor; Vince wants to murder this witness; Gum won’t let him; Vince’s gun goes off and shoots him in the leg; and the upshot is that the wounded Vince escapes in the van with the other two, leaving Gum—and the cash—to the tender mercies of the cops. After a massively destructive car chase, Gum is run to earth in a derelict site, where he throws the money into a brazier before surrendering.
Yes. Either the cops don’t think to check the braziers and save at least most of the money or somehow $10,000,000 is reduced to ashes in mere minutes. As I said, there are plot holes.
Eight years later Gum emerges from jail. In the interim his wife has left him and his darling daughter Alison (Gayle) has become an adolescent who wants nothing to do with him—even though it’s clear her mother is neglecting her in favor of her latest studly lover. Gum finds Riley, who’s now living the straight life tending bar—and a cop bar at that. She tells him that, after that terrible night, Vince turned sour and was eventually brutally murdered, ostensibly in some kind of gang execution. Meanwhile Agent Harlend and his sidekick Fletcher (Valley) are keeping Gum under surveillance, hoping he’ll lead them to wherever he hid (they think) the stolen money.
Riley (Malin Akerman) is now tending a cop bar.
But Vince, it proves, isn’t dead; he faked his own demise. Somewhat disfigured and limping on a crude prosthetic leg—that bullet did more damage than you might have expected—he seeks revenge on Gum for, he reckons, having destroyed his life and also wants the $10,000,000, which he too reckons Gum must have hidden rather than destroyed. Now operating under the name Johnny Morgan, Vince is driving a minicab for the company supervised by Lefleur (Braverman). It’s easy enough for him to pick up Alison as a fare and then abduct her. The deal, he tells Gum by phone, is that either Gum produces the $10,000,000 within twelve hours so or Alison’s a goner. Complicating matters is that it’s Mardi Gras—Fat Tuesday.
Alison (Sami Gayle) begins to realize that something’s amiss with her taxi driver.
So Gum realizes his only option is to go back to that very same bank they robbed eight years ago and this time break into the vault through the floor to purloin $10,000,000’s worth of the gold ingots they saw when they were stealing the cash. He enlists the aid of Riley, and luckily the ingots are still standing in the very same place they were eight years ago . . . and on a vault floor that thieves can burn through in minutes from a tunnel whose exit is easily accessible by the public. Hm. By this time Gum has fallen from great heights, dislocated (and relocated) his thumb escaping from handcuffs, climbed out of the wreckage of a car that tumbled several times, been through more than one fistfight, etc., yet is still running around with no great signs of wear and tear. Hm again.
Hoyt (M.C. Gainey) is less than pleased to see his ol’ buddy.
Most of this is as predictable as the summary suggests. There are some surprises along the way—such as that Hoyt proves to be Vince’s silent partner in the venture—but for the most part, as noted, the movie has to rely on the skill of its execution to pull it through.
And here it does satisfy. The plentiful action scenes are done with great panache (and with nicely fluid camerawork), and the moments of humor are carried off neatly without being belabored. (Says Riley to Gum of Agent Harlend, “God, that guy needs to get laid, like, yesterday” . . . and then realizes she’s talking to a man who’s just been released after eight years in stir.)
There are also some far better performances than one expects in actioners of this kind. Lucas’s role is really something of a caricature, the shambling psycho pulled from a hundred anonymous horror movies, but he manages to imbue it with some genuine credibility. (It owes something to John Heard’s portrayal of the embittered Alex Cutter in CUTTER AND BONE [1981; vt Cutter’s Way, but without the depth and subtlety.) Gayle is very fine as the somewhat flaky, uncertain youngster who eventually displays great gumption.
Vince (Josh Lucas) makes it clear what he’ll do to Alison (Sami Gayle).
But the cream is Huston as the federal agent who proves to be far from soulless. He’s the only character (with the exception of the much-transformed Vince) who ages during the eight years of Gum’s incarceration; part of this is achieved through simple makeup strategies, but the bulk of it is down to Huston himself, who very convincingly depicts what the smart eager agent of the earlier part of the movie could become with a decade’s additional complacency under his belt.
FBI kingpin Tim Harlend (Danny Huston).
Stolen was panned by the critics and flopped at the box office, and was largely seen as part of the ongoing decline of Cage’s career. Those critics may have been overly harsh. Certainly the movie’s no classic, but it succeeds pretty ably in doing what it sets out to do.
On Amazon.com: Stolen (DVD + Digital Copy)