"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dinner & A DVD: The Good Thief

Chicken, ham and a wild rice mix make this comforting dish quick to assemble.

Chicken Ham Casserole

1 pkg (6 oz) long grain and wild rice mix
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 cup cubed fully cooked ham
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1 cup shredded Colby cheese
Parmesan cheese

Cook rice mix according to package directions. Transfer to a greased baking dish. Top with chicken and ham. In a bowl, combine the soup, milk, cheese and pepper; pour over chicken mixture. Sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.

Featured Attraction: The Good Thief

This was a very enjoyable film right up until the climax. Then it was suddenly over and I was left wondering what had just happened, and that's not usually the sign of a good movie.

Nick Nolte is very good in the role of an aging thief in the south of France. He's turned sour over the years and has just hit rock bottom when the opportunity of a big casino heist turns up. He kicks his heroin habit and prepares to steal some paintings the casino owners are holding in a vault.

Nick and his gang have a plan: They're gonna leak the news to the police that they're planning on breaking into the casino vault, but the real robbery involves stealing the paintings held across the street in a secure room. The police will fall for the ruse while they make off with the real goods.

On the big night, everyone's in place except Paulo, who had to flee after killing the snitch who was screwing his girlfriend. Nick and Anne go into the casino and gamble while the boys are across the street tunneling into the room where the paintings are. But the police are on to the switch and are waiting for the thieves to break in.

Now, here's where the ending confuses me. The heist goes wrong because a gas line breaks and the thieves abandon their plan. But Nick is in the casino and he's on an amazing winning streak. I couldn't follow how much he was ahead, but it looked like tens of millions of francs - maybe the equivalent of ten or twenty million dollars.

Nick cashes all his chips in finally and the casino discovers that their vault has been emptied when they go to pay him. The twins working inside the casino have pulled off the caper they'd been planning and which Nick was aware of. In fact, Paulo must have helped them because he's seen in the end climbing out of the car with all the casino's money in it.

So, my question is, was Nick involved in the other heist, the one that really worked, or was his take just the winnings he made at cards? The way he won was so off the charts that I was expecting them to reveal he'd had some inside help, but that apparently wasn't the case.

Is Nick just incredibly lucky or was he really a very clever thief? I couldn't tell what the ending meant, and that was unsatisfying after having enjoyed the buildup.

Good characters and the scenery along the Riviera was terrific. Nick Nolte looking significantly better and more "together" at his character's lowest point in the film than he did in his real life mug shot. With a gravely voice that sounds like his throat has dealt with one too many cigars and one too many shots of booze, Nolte did mumble a lot, but I could understand him for the most part. Tchéky Karyo (Roger) was good as the detective shadowing Nolte throughout the film - they had a friendly relationship and Tchéky seemed on the verge of laughing at the other actor's jokes a few times. The rest of the cast is also very good.

Entertaining, but that ending still confuses me.

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