The heist genre as a whole always had a bit of a raw deal. While most other film genres were built over time, allowing their films to grow more complex as time went on, heist films had the bar set rather within its first two entrees, John Huston’s brilliant “The Asphalt Jungle” and Jules Dassin’s masterpiece “Rififi”. Every heist film that has followed has owed much to both movies and while few have ever matched the overall quality of “The Asphalt Jungle” or “Rififi”, there have been many entertaining attempts. One such film which has been unjustly forgotten is Giuliano Montaldo’s “Grand Slam” which has been released for the first time on DVD thanks to Blue Underground.
Retiring Professor James Anders (Edward G. Robinson) has a business proposition for old friend Mark Milford (Adolfo Celi), a New York city mob boss. After decades of living and teaching in Buenos Ares, Anders has concocted a scheme to bilk a diamond company out of ten million dollars worth of stones. While he has masterminded the scheme he knows he needs professionals to pull it off and turns to Milford for help. A heist such as this will require four highly trained men: A military man to oversee the operation (Klaus Kinski), an expert safecracker (Georges Rigaud), a technician to deal with the grand slam security system (Agostino Rossi) and finally a gigolo (Robert Hoffmann). Why a gigolo? Because someone is going to have to get a key vital to the operation from prudish employee Mary Ann (Janet Leigh).
Not exactly high art, “Grand Slam” is nevertheless a fun crime film. From the half hour theft sequence which manages to juggle the various exploits of our heroes as they try and overcome various pitfalls in stealing the diamonds to the smaller touches such as Celi having a hidden wall devoted to all the various professional criminals one could ever want, arranged in alphabetical order, the film never fails to entertain. What is both “Grand Slam’s” blessing and its curse is the lack of characterization. Instead of comradery on the part of the men in attempting the heist this is strictly a business only proposal, they are there to do a job, no more, no less. It is this coldness that makes “Grand Slam” stand out from many other heist films and adds to the pleasure of watching the men work during the stealing of the stones but leaves the audience a little apathetic as all hell breaks loose late in the film.
Better than the original “Oceans Eleven” and more entertaining than David Mamet’s recent “Heist”, “Grand Slam” deserves to be seen by those in the mood for an old school heist flick that is more than just “that film with Edward G. Robinson, Janet Leigh and the creepy German guy who played Nosferatu”.