starring Gene Hackman, Danny Devito, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Pidgeon and Ricky Jay
written and directed by David Mamet
Called “The Professional” in Japanese, this is a story about a crew of jewel thieves, led by Gene Hackmkan. Hackman finds himself in a tight spot between his dreams of retirement into the quiet, anonymous life of an ex-jewel thief and the pressure from up-and-coming young hoods to finish one more, big job. As an older man, he has learned how and when to be cautious, when to walk away from a job, and when and how to use violence. The young men pushing him to do one more job have learned none of that yet, and so Hackman has to chart a tricky course of holding off the young bloods while weaving a plot to outsmart them and to complete the final job on his own terms - keep all the loot for himself instead of turning it over to his fence, and fulfill his dream of a guaranteed comfortable retirement. It is a formula we have seen before in crime films. Hackman is good in the role because he is an older man now, and because, as a former United States Marine, we know that he was once a youg man full of piss-and-vinegar bravado and daring, as they say. In addition, he has a long list of film credits playing one manner of tough guy after another, from tough cop, tough cowboy, tough high school sports coach, to tough military officer. So I think that he fits well in the role.
Hackman succeeds, but not without a dangerous fight with younger criminals bent on robbing him of the gold that he has so skillfully liberated from an aircraft. He succeeds, but not without some injury. However, as a story it is cleverly constructed with interesting double-crosses and plot twists. There is no honor among thieves.
In the end it is very satisfying to see the old guy win with his low-key, slow, meticulous and professional approach to his work, rather than the brash, violent approach of younger men. He drives away in an old, beat-up car, guaranteed not to be noticed by anyone, with a trunk full of disguised gold in the back. It is the dividend of the final double cross, after he is accosted in his garage and younger crooks steal form him what they think is hot gold. They race away in spectacular young man fashion with nothing but painted iron bars. Hackman drives away in slow, old man fashion with a fortune in painted gold bars.
(I hate slow-driving old people, who wear fedora hats inside their cars, and are so shriveled with age that their eyes only barely peek over the dashboard.)