So many films are made in Canada that it’s quite a surprise to encounter one which is actually set there. Indeed, this is all the more pleasurable as it’s the only surprise encountered in Foolproof, a heist movie which is distinguished only by the presence of David Suchet and a screenplay which steals from all over the place without ever suggesting what made all those other films such fun.
The title refers to a gang of three twentysomethings who, presumably in possession of an excessive disposable income, have developed a knack for planning and executing ‘foolproof’ robberies. The three gang members - Kevin (Reynolds), Sam (Booth) and Rob (Jarsky) - who are supposed to charm us with their wisecracking brio, are actually incredibly unpleasant individuals and it’s hard not to hope that they meet a violent and painful demise during the course of the film. Indeed, the only person with any style is Leo Gillette (Suchet), a master criminal who is intended to be the villain. Gillette steals the gang’s plan to rob a jewellers and blackmails them into performing a multi-million dollar heist on his behalf.
Needless to say, the robbery is terribly complex and all manner of things go wrong. Technology is fetishised to the point of erotic hysteria and the more the gang trade one-line quips with each other, the more you want them to be subject to some kind of extended cavity search by particularly assiduous employees of US Customs. Even more predictably, the gang begin to fall apart. Computer nerd (with a goatee and some of those deeply offensive baggy trousers which stop above the ankles) Rob is seduced into Leo’s world with money and sexual favours from some blonde bit-part slapper; Sam can’t resist being painfully egotistical and showing off her martial arts skills; Kevin wanders about like George Clooney with a charisma-bypass and mouths unspeakable one-liners in an attempt to be sympathetic.
William Phillips directs with reasonable competence, although his resort to split-screen and flashy editing seems more the result of desperation than intentional style. His screenplay confuses smart-alec talk for characterisation and, unforgivably, fails to make the details of the robbery clear enough in advance. As every great heist film from the past has demonstrated, we can only be involved if we have been implicated as an audience into the exact manner by which the robbery is to be performed. You don’t have to slow the narrative down to a crawl in order to do this – as De Palma demonstrated in Mission Impossible where the theft of the computer disc was an absolutely perfect set-piece. I could list all the films which this one nicks bits from but I think it would be pretty redundant – from the 1960 British classic League of Gentlemen to The Thomas Crown Affair and Entrapment, they’re all there in some shape or form. I don’t object to this kind of theft – stealing from the best has always been a good source of inspiration ever since Eisenstein first saw D.W.Griffith’s Intolerance - but it’s got to be done with a bit of wit and style. Otherwise it’s just tired copycatting.
The biggest problem is the utterly loathsome central characters. I am a big fan of films featuring vile individuals, but only if the film presents them as such and is honest about doing so. The three members of the ‘Foolproof’ gang are simply obnoxious rich kids with too much time on their hands and a skewed moral sense. If either of these were intentional then the film might be on to something but we seem to be expected to like these people. Ryan Reynolds isn’t a bad comic actor but he can’t play the lead in a film such as this which demands much more presence than he can supply. Kristin Booth is totally lacking in credibility or sympathy and, at the risk of sounding deeply sexist, it’s hard not to applaud when she gets a well-deserved slap. The only actor with any flair is David Suchet. Gillette is meant to be the bad guy but Suchet is so precise in his characterisation of a devious bastard and so much fun to watch that it’s hard not to wish that the film were about how he gets rid of the three unbearable young leads. That’s about the only way in which Foolproof could have amounted to anything more than an occasionally diverting time-waster.
Denied a theatrical release in the UK and America – although not, for some reason, in the United Arab Emirates where the activites of the central characters would once have resulted in some kind of (well deserved) bodily mutilation - Foolproof arrives on a disc which offers a good looking transfer and some insignificant extra features.
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. It’s an excellent transfer, crisp and full of detail. The lengthy scenes in a dark lift-shaft look stunningly sharp and the colours throughout are splendidly rich. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is equally impressive with impressive use of the surround channels and a good presentation of the pounding music score.
The extras are limited. We get some less than amusing outtakes – demonstrating that Kristin Booth has difficulties delivering dialogue. There’s also a behind-the-scenes feature which runs about 9 minutes and contains some pleasant but bland interviews. “Special Effects” deals with the use of CGI in the film. Finally, the Canadian theatrical trailer is included.
English subtitles are offered for the main feature and the film is divided into 20 chapter stops.
I’ve seen worse films than Foolproof but that’s about the best I can find to say about it. If you’re stuck for anything to rent on a rainy Sunday afternoon then it might provide some diversion but I can’t imagine why anyone would want to own it.
Mike Sutton has reviewed the upcoming Momentum R2 release of "Foolproof", a derivative by-the-numbers heist movie distinguished by the presence of the great David Suchet. The DVD looks and sounds fine but has no extras of any interest.