I’m a sucker for a good heist or break-in movie. From Ocean’s 11 to The Score to Mission: Impossible to The Great Train Robbery, it’s always fun to watch a band of robbers break into a secure vault and make off with a pile of loot. Since break-in films generally follow the same structure (introduce characters, reveal impenetrable vault, set the stakes high, establish urgency, encounter conflict before reaching the goal, and either get caught or get away), what makes a good break-in movie are compelling characters and an interesting setup. The stakes don’t even necessarily need to be all that high, as long as the characters are interesting and the conflicts are engaging. And that’s exactly what The Maiden Heist is: a stripped-to-the-bone heist flick with neither flair nor style, but exuding charm and class in every frame. Sort of like a geriatric version of The Thomas Crowne Affair, the movie revolves around three museum workers who conspire to steal three pieces of artwork rather than let them be shipped off to Denmark.
Christopher Walken hams it up as Roger Barlow, a security guard enamored of a painting called “The Lonely Maiden” and vows to save it from being shuttle off to a foreign country where, he is certain, no one will appreciate it like he does. He soon teams up Charles Peterson (Morgan Freeman, playing the part with a wink and a smile) and George McLendon (William H. Macy, doing his best William H. Macy impression) who also want to save another painting and a statue. The three of them hatch a not-very-elaborate scheme to steal the pieces of artwork on moving day, and even though the ending is a foregone conclusion it’s a lot of fun getting there.
Macy practically steals the show as a possible army veteran who may or may not have been involved in several military conflicts, but has clearly seized the opportunity to play out his version of a James Bond fantasy with the theft of the artworks. His flamboyance and eccentricities are matched perfectly by Walken, who could hold audience enraptured by simply reading a nursery rhyme. Thrown into the mix is Walken’s overprotective wife Rose (Marcia Gay Harden) whom Charles has convinced he is taking on a long-overdue vacation to Florida.
As the old Chinese proverb states, the journey is the reward, and that certainly holds true with The Maiden Heist. The fun of the movie isn’t in wondering what will happen or if the triumvirate will succeed, but in watching it all unfold. Walken, Freeman, and Macy are clearly too old for sneaking around, rappelling down walls, and that sort of thing, but someone obviously forgot to tell them. They have such a blast playing not-quite-inept thieves that it’s hard to not enjoy it with them, and Harden’s hysterics only add to the mix.
This is not a film to be taken seriously, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. It could never hold its own against more technically accomplished and meticulously planned Hollywood counterparts, but then, that’s not really the point. If you’re interested in a fun little heist flick, or have any appreciation for these three fantastic leading actors, The Maiden Heist deserves a rental.
Last 5 posts by Simon R.
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