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Grand Slam

Grand Slam -

Despite a cast featuring Edward G. Robinson, Klaus Kinski and Janet Leigh and settings like New York and Brazil, I found this heist movie to be an endurance test. A retired teacher (Robinson) who taught in Brazil works with old friend and criminal mastermind Mark (Celi) to steal millions of dollars in diamonds while Carnival is happening. They assemble an international team including Kinski's stuntman and Robert Hoffmann's Casanova. The first step? Have Hoffmann charm Mary Ann (Leigh), the safe's sole keyholder.

When I think about my favorite heist movies - examples include Thief, Rififi, Topkapi and the 2001 Ocean's Eleven - one thing they have in common is one or more characters who are interesting at the most and worth giving a damn about in the least. This movie simply has neither. It succeeds at informing me about each one's specialty, but it does not do enough to say what they are like. It comes close with Cucciolla's kind and nerdy toymaker, but no cigar. I do not think the relatively large cast is an excuse because, well, look at Ocean's Eleven. While I have no complaints about the filmmaking during the pivotal safecracking sequence, my ultimate reaction to it is indifference. A scene where the safe's guards return to duty made me think "go ahead, catch them, I don't care," for instance. Besides, there is a problem when you are more interested in the cutaways to the Carnival than the heist. The movie does succeed in defying your expectations late in the game, but it is not enough to redeem everything that happens before. I like the movie's time capsule qualities with its late 60s footage of New York City and Rio de Janeiro and Ennio Morricone's score is as enjoyable as the rest of his music. Other than that, the end result comes across like director Montaldo and company watched Rififi, were inspired to make their own version afterwards but left out the secret ingredients in the process.