Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In short: Lassiter (1984)

London, 1939. Cat burglar Lassiter (Tom “I’m bored” Selleck) is pressed into the joined service of his and the British government by mild-mannered FBI agent Breeze (Joe Regalbuto), and irascible London copper Becker (Bob Hoskins). He is to steal a bunch of diamonds from the German embassy or he’ll land in jail on trumped up charges.

Well, in truth, Becker has such an irrational hate-on for Lassiter, he’s planning on locking him up in any case once the thief has gotten hold of the jewels; clearly, nobody involved explained to him the story Lassiter would tell during his process might get a wee bit embarrassing for the UK or their American friends who haven’t actually even joined the war at this point. But before he needs to solve that problem, Lassiter has to commit sexspionage on crazy German diamond courier Kari von Fürsten (Lauren Hutton), survive the ire of his girlfriend Sara (Jane Seymour), and plan and execute his jewel heist. Oh, and of course there will be The Sting-like caper movie tricks involved, just much dumber.

And there’s one of the main problems of Roger Young’s Lassiter right there: if you attempt to make a movie that’s playing on the field of movies like The Sting and the caper movies of the 30s and 40s, you really need to make sure you are actually on the same level and not a tired, erratically paced mess that seems to believe in its own cleverness too much to ever be even the slightest bit clever. And what use is all the fine, showy production design recreating 1939 if there’s not much of interest happening in it anyhow because your film is only ever dragging its feet in it, with large parts of the film consisting of an incredibly bored looking lead actor doing nothing of import or interest?

Which promptly leads us to the next problem, namely the fact that Tom Selleck isn’t just no Cary Grant, but tries to get by on his good looks alone, never showing any interest or spark of life at all, neither when he’s actually getting around to some thievery, nor when he’s half-unwillingly getting seduced by a Lauren Hutton whose crazy overacting could have used a foil willing or able to play along (the same goes for Hoskins or Seymour, by the way). I have gotten used to supposedly charming rogues in movies in truth being unpleasant arseholes, but Selleck’s performance here is so disinterested it’s impossible to get any feeling at all that suggests whatever he thinks he’s doing on screen. Selleck’s a void in the centre of a film that desperately needed the kind of actor able to take control of scenes, or sparkle.

This lifelessness seems to infect many aspects of the film, be it the stop and start plotting that never goes anywhere, the way the film builds Hutton’s character as menacing and dangerous but then just forgets about doing anything with that, and the tiresome and tedious attempts at plot twists. I’m getting as bored as Selleck looks throughout Lassiter just writing about it again.

No comments: