From the Chicago Reader (July 10, 2001). — J.R.
Talent means nothing if you don’t make the right choices, says a middle-aged heist artist and Montreal jazz club owner (Robert De Niro) to his prickly young assistant (Ed Norton). These words of wisdom might have been heeded by the filmmakers — four credited writers, director Frank Oz, and undoubtedly countless others, including four producers — who have needlessly inflated a modest thriller into a top-heavy monolith of wasted secondary actors (Angela Bassett, Gary Farmer, and even to some extent Marlon Brando, who manages to give something approaching a real performance this time rather than a specialty cameo) and fussy details. John Huston (The Asphalt Jungle), Jules Dassin (Rififi), and Stanley Kubrick (The Killing), working on two separate continents in the 50s, with many more characters and shorter running times, did much better jobs with heist thrillers, perhaps because they were creating movies rather than packages. This one’s slightly better than average these days, which means slightly diverting. Howard Shore, who’s done fine work in the past for David Cronenberg, did the derivative pseudojazz score, and there are brief musical cameos by Cassandra Wilson and Mose Allison. 123 min. (JR)