Flawless

2008, Movie, PG-13, 106 mins

Review

FLAWLESS
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Michael Radford's polished but oddly lifeless heist thriller, set in soon-to-be swinging London, teams an embittered businesswoman and a put-upon janitor in a daring scheme to rob a diamond exchange.

Oxford-educated American Laura Quinn (Demi Moore), the first-ever female executive at the London Diamonds Corporation, is tired of hitting her head on the glass ceiling. She's repeatedly passed over for promotion in favor of less qualified men, but there's not much she can do except keep a bitter little log of sleights and refuse to admit to herself just how much her coworkers, subordinates and superiors resent her success. That's why Quinn is chosen to take the fall when a South African mine scandal threatens London Diamonds' relationship with its Russian counterparts. To add insult to injury, she learns of her impending betrayal from the cockney janitor, elderly Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine), who's so thoroughly invisible to his Saville Row-suited employers that all sorts of interesting information routinely comes his way. Hobbs is about to retire after years of undercompensated service, and he's devised a shockingly simple plan to liberate some diamonds from the company vault -- would Quinn like to join him? She refuses, of course, but Hobbs is a clever one (it's no coincidence that "hob" is an old synonym for "devil"); he can spot weakness with Iago-like efficiency, and his gentle but relentless blandishments eventually bring her around. Suffice it to say that there's more to Hobbs' plan than meets the eye -- much, much more.

Saddled with a clunky framing sequence in which the elderly Laura Quinn (Moore in unconvincing old-age makeup) tells her astonishing tale to a callow reporter, who thought she was interviewing some boring philanthropist, the film's virtues are small and relative. It's gorgeous, and set-directed within an inch of its life, right down to Moore's vintage power suits and lacquered hair. She looks fantastic, but her Laura Quinn is all prim-and-proper surface -- you know there's supposed to be a volcanic lake of rage bubbling beneath that perfectly made-up face, but you can't see it. Caine's performance is a rehash of many better ones, but he's vividly alive on screen even when phoning it in -- Caine can't help the flicker in his reptile eyes, or the hint of mischief (or worse) in his voice. And that's a good thing: Without him the film's resemblance to a moving waxwork display would be more pronounced. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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