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In Monte Carlo, Theo Wilkins recruits his young protégé Paul Mason - just released from prison - to help him rob the famous casino of $4 million. The plan is straightforward. On the night of the Governor's Ball, Theo will create a distraction in the casino by having one of the team collapse requiring urgent medical attention. During that time Paul and another member of the crew will get the money from the vault. When the ambulance arrives, the money will leave with the sick man. The plan is a good one but not everyone will survive the robbery and no one will get rich from it. Written by
A so-so caper movie that somehow fails to take off despite a veteran cast and director. There's lots of casino glitz, a sexy Joan Collins, and an inherently suspenseful premise, but the elements never really come together. I agree with the reviewer who thinks Steiger miscast. His is the central role. Yet he's so humorless, his enforcer-leader fails to generate needed sympathy for the caper (I gather director Hathaway was also unhappy with the grimness). In fact, with Robinson's exception, none of the characters is particularly likable. As a result, viewers are not encouraged to engage with the caper, but instead to simply observe it. At the same time, ace director Hathaway films in uncharacteristically impersonal, uncompelling fashion.
Nonetheless, the movie does have its moments. There's genuine tension when the Duc (Hillaire) tries to get Melanie (Collins) evicted from the casino, spoiling the heist. Instead, Melanie does some fast thinking and hangs in there. Then there's the very human last- minute-jitters that threaten to undo the elaborate scheme. But these moments of tension tend to remain isolated instead of tightening into a suspenseful whole, a failing perhaps of the screenplay.
I think there's a reason these heist films were popular during the law-and-order 1950's. The best ones-- The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Killing (1956) humanize crime in ways crime features to that point don't. Unlike most crime dramas of the period, ordinary people are seen as able to pool their talents into a cleverly profitable undertaking, at the same time, being daring enough to take big risks for big gains.
Such qualities mirror the kind of commercial initiative ordinarily lauded by popular culture. Of course, heists are also criminal enterprises, but except for the key factor of legality, they show off the combined skills of ordinary people acting in effective and sympathetic light. And just as importantly, as long as it's only a bank or racetrack or casino that gets victimized, well, they can likely afford it. Without that key consideration of who's harmed, the ending of this film would be more morally questionable than it is.
Anyhow, the movie's passable entertainment, and if it fails to scale the caper film heights, at least there are compensations.
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