20 January 2003 | herbqedi
Nihilistic antihero sets table for clever and sophisticated caper movie
Webster McGee (superbly realized by Ryan O'Neal) is bored into stupor by his career and life, so much so that his wife (Jill Clayburgh, sparkling in a minor but memorable appearance) left him, and he has come to agree with her for doing so. He also has decided that what all work, all financial endeavors, and all life comes down to is -- thievery. He decides to be true to himself and his newfound convictions and to become "an honest thief." To set his plan into action, he must find and control an unwilling accomplice (terrific performance by Charles Cioffi), and find two cohorts to dispose of the merchandise (hilariously sanctimonious Ned Beatty and street-not-so-wise Gregory Sierra) for profit. That's the premise, and Yorkin adds some incongruous bits along the way for spice and fun. He seduces and is seduced by Jacqueline Bisset, and meets a man who is almost his match in insurance investigator Dave Riley (Warren Oates -- a multifaceted and brilliant performance).
Austin Pendelton has an off-the-wall role for comic relief that's perhaps a bit too silly for the otherwise sophisticated quasi-European anti-establishment satirical tone taken by the rest of the movie's tone. But, you have to allow Bud Yorkin one of these, don't you? There's also a fun car chase (sequence perhaps directed by co-writer and later action-director Walter Hill??), and one more ironic twist. The second half of the movie is dominated by the engaging cat-and-mouse game between McGee and Riley.
I have now watched this movie three times and find it more enjoyable each time. The imagery in the first-third slows the pace a bit, but stick with it, and I think you will be well rewarded.