Heist pictures are pretty much evergreen. The format's ripe for the picking in these days of economic gloom and political paranoia; it feeds on the idea that some people can steal a pile of loot and live out their days in sunny comfort. Having said that, it's rather strange that the genre's two most recent entries are pure throwbacks. Where this year's The Bank Job was a grimy, no-fuss macho '70s thriller, Flawless is an elegant, somewhat drowsy return to mid-20th century gentility that's sure to please the early dinner crowd (and, really, anyone who's never seen a movie before). So it's not a bad picture, just an all too comfortable one, content to let its appealing leads amble through a rote storyline that never fully delivers on its promises. Consider Demi Moore, still sexy in tight knit skirts, shiny pumps and a Jackie Kennedy bob, seemingly ready in every frame to burst loose with wild carnality, yet she's paired with a leading man who seems more suited for catnaps than vigorous bedroom romps. That's no slight on the regal Michael Caine — who seems dozy because he could play this part in his sleep — but on a script that can't decide on clever thrills or earnest dialogue.

Miss Moore plays Laura Quinn, the lone female exec at a major London diamond broker, who discovers that nasty internal politics are about to ruin her and she hasn't a pillow soft enough to cushion the blow.

Enter Caine's Mr. Hobbs. He's the night janitor — a dog track-loving cockney widower with a hidden agenda and nearly unfettered access to the company's vault. Soon, these strange bedfellows embark on the most low-tech heist imaginable while trying to keep their own shaky partnership from toppling.

Added pressure comes from an insurance investigator (Lambert Wilson), who you might remember as the creepy French guy from the Matrix movies, and while he's indeed as French as baguettes, he manages a much more credible Brit brogue than poor Demi. There's the tiniest flicker of romantic tension brewing between these two, which is promptly ignored so the movie can return to boring the piss out of us with endless scenes of execs in Savile Row finery yelling at each other in boardrooms filled with cigar smoke.

Director Michael Radford (Il Postino) adds classy sheen with a sleek chrome-and-marble look, but he's also responsible for allowing the pacing to slide and the ending to mush. That's not to say that the film misses the simple joy of watching a grand master like Caine at work — Radford is smart enough to get out of his way and let him do his thing, which is key to any caper.

Showing at the Maple Art Theatre, 4135 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-263-2111.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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