The lackluster heist flicks keep on arriving, and “Flawless” continues that trend. Tonal dreariness and plot implausibilities undermine a promising setup in this somber caper drama that should have been a vital serio-romp.
Director Michael Radford, who dealt with anti-Semitism and its consequences in “The Merchant of Venice,” transports us to frigid, sexist corporate London, circa 1960, this time. The primary setting is an old-boy-run diamond company. The protagonists are two undervalued employees who unite, but never satisfyingly bond, in disgruntlement.
From his access to wastebaskets and suite talk, Hobbs knows that Laura has been denied due promotions, smeared and slated for firing. Harboring his own grudge against the company, he persuades Laura to assist him in a scheme he’s hatched to steal diamonds from its vault. Snafus and surprises occur.
The movie surely has its moments. The presentation of the robbery, in which the slow-moving Hobbs must maneuver efficiently to evade the notice of a lunching guard, who brings a rare comic element to the picture, is particularly impressive.
But there isn’t enough such material. Overall, Radford and first-time screenwriter Edward Anderson deliver a sum of bits rather than a crackling caper flick or compelling crime thriller. Splashes of prefeminist attitudes, the janitor condition, Cold War politics and apartheid mentalities provide texture but little dramatic weight.
The heist component gets dull once the robbery ends. And while the film, partly due to Caine’s participation, recalls the caper flicks of the 1960s, it lacks their snap. It’s nearly joyless.
It also lacks solid protagonists. The ideally cast Caine’s Hobbs effectively combines cunning and charm. But rather than backing Caine in terms of the menace he suggests in his vindictive character, the filmmakers saddle Hobbs with an unbelievable sympathetic motivation.
Moore’s Laura fares worse. Zipped and clipped, she scores cosmetic points as a symbol of stifled potential but doesn’t convey the necessary emotional ingredients. Neither her passion nor her purported extraordinariness comes through in this film that falsely presents itself as a story of a protofeminist trailblazer.
The two don’t jell as a team, either. They should have been a bang-up odd couple.
Starring Demi Moore, Michael Caine, Lambert Wilson
Written by Edward Anderson
Directed by Michael Radford
Running time 1 hour 45 minutes