- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

Slap a name like “Flawless” on a movie and just wait for the snippy comments.

Just don’t look for them here. The new ‘60s-era film is far from perfect, but it shakes up the heist genre just enough to stir our interest. It helps that it co-stars Michael Caine, an actor who can make any movie except “Jaws IV: The Revenge” worth our while.

The glass ceiling above Demi Moore’s character in “Flawless” is encrusted with diamonds, making it impossible to so much as scratch. Laura Quinn (Miss Moore) punches in at London Diamond Corp. before her male peers every workday and doesn’t punch out until most, if not all, have left the building. That doesn’t stop promotion after promotion from passing her by.

So when the building’s janitor, Hobbs (Michael Caine), asks her to help him steal a Thermosful of diamonds from the company’s vault, she’s willing to listen. She decides to act after she learns of a plot to scapegoat her for an office gaffe.

Laura doesn’t realize that Hobbs has more than just a few baubles in his sights.

Adding to the drama is a mercurial inspector (Lambert Wilson) who takes a unique interest in Laura once the diamonds go missing. Does he know she helped pull off the theft? Or is he distracted by her shapely gams and runaway ambition? The film only hints at their flirtation, one of many ways in which “Flawless” defies convention.

As London Diamond’s leader, Joss Ackland is a cruel dictator, willing to swat subordinates like Laura while promising to destroy anyone unwise enough to get in his way. That means he’s a great screen villain, and Mr. Ackland wastes not a morsel of evil in his performance.

Director Michael Radford (1994’s “Il Postino”) gives us fewer theatrics than “Ocean’s Eleven” and other heist flicks, but watching Mr. Caine drag his tired body across the vault floor gives “Flawless” its own appeal.

Then we come to Miss Moore’s performance.

Why, you ask, does the actress’s British accent come and go? She’s an American, it seems, who moved to England years ago for college and never left. The bigger question is: Why cast her in the first place? Her box-office appeal evaporated in the 1990s, and she was never considered an elite actress even at her commercial zenith.

Mr. Caine, predictably, gives “Flawless” most of its juice. His character possesses a nimble mind, so it’s credible that he could concoct such a devious plan. Also, though Laura is supposed to wield a fierce intellect, she can barely keep up with her senior partner in crime.

“Flawless” gives us some background on the diamond trade, but it’s interested in the business less on its own terms than as a window into the corporate sexism motivating Laura’s resentment.

The final reel packs more than a few twists, some believable, some that could only happen on a soundstage.

“Flawless,” warts and all, proves you don’t need George Clooney and his merry band of all-stars to make a heist picture that steals our attention.

**1/2

TITLE: “Flawless”

RATING: PG-13 (Adult language)

CREDITS: Directed by Michael Radford. Written by Edward Anderson.

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

WEB SITE: www.flawlessfilm.com

MAXIMUM CREDIT: FOUR STARS

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