‘Flawless’ works as a diamond heist caper, not as political drama

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 27, 2008 1:50pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

If it had stuck to the basic lines of a heist movie, “Flawless” might have been a small gem, elegantly directed with a pair of classy characters at the center.

Alas, this movie reaches beyond itself with some absurd political touches. If you can look beyond that, it gives pleasure in the caper department.

Things start out wobbly, with a present-day scene of a London reporter interviewing an elderly woman (Demi Moore, carefully wrinkled) for a feature about women who made a difference.

Surprise: Moore’s character, Laura Quinn, holds out a fist-sized diamond, a little memento from a secret past. The flashback kicks in, and we find out what it was all about.

In 1960, Laura is the only female in a position of power at the world’s biggest diamond company. Trouble at a South African mine puts the company in a delicate position, and their fall guy, or fall gal, is Laura — despite her clear superiority to most of the male executives there.

A humble janitor named Hobbs (Michael Caine) approaches Laura with a modest plan. He’s about to retire and would like to take a few diamonds with him to soften the blow. Since she’s about to be fired, maybe the two of them could — shall we say — collaborate on a little inside-job thievery?

All those pretty diamonds sitting in that great big vault, after all. And so the story moves ahead, with rather decent twists along the way, plus a likably frosty investigator (Lambert Wilson) whose attraction to Laura is played out in admirably restrained fashion.

What’s the problem here? Well, the framing story is a bust; the movie would’ve been better without it. And Demi Moore would’ve been better off without trying the old-age bit.

She’s fine as the in-control, wrapped-tight executive. Moore is such a take-charge actress, you don’t doubt she could eat some of her co-workers for breakfast. Michael Caine, as a cagey old-timer, is right in his element.

The other howler is the backdrop of South African unrest, as though the movie is going to get into “blood diamonds” and the cost of pretty things. Director Michael Radford (“Il Postino”) might have had some lofty intentions here, but the whole thing is just a red herring, and is quickly dropped from view. Somehow that makes it much worse than if the film had simply been a good period heist flick. As is sometimes true with jewelry, less is more.

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