Hot Rock, The (1972)

The Hot Rock (1972), directed by Peter Yates.

A fabulous blue diamond has been stolen back and forth between rival African nations for centuries. While on exhibit in New York, a diplomat hires a team of four thieves to steal it back one more time. The caper itself happens unexpectedly early in the film; the rest of the time is spent in continued pursuit of the stone and breaking into other places where criminals are not supposed to go.

This is a generally relaxed heist comedy, although we have some good tension during the museum theft itself. One suspects that Robert Redford's charisma was meant to power the story, but the fine casting makes it a worthy ensemble piece, elevating everyone's efforts.

George Segal can be very funny but he sometimes puts on this chilling death-face.

They use a hypnotism gimmick. Is that cheating?

We have nice helicopter shots of Manhattan, including the World Trade Center under construction. I don't think that close-in flying is allowed anymore.

This is a William Goldman adaptation of a comic novel by Donald E. Westlake, the first in a series. The only novel of his I have read so far is another in this series, The Road to Ruin. His humor is like that of PG Wodehouse: slightly dim characters and the things they say.

Other films made from Westlake include:

The key to getting inside the film and enjoying it more: it takes place in the William Goldman-verse, a movie dimension of style and wit, reflections from a golden age of film. I suspect it was funnier to him while writing it because he was hearing those echoes.

Score by Quincy Jones.

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with a commentary by the usual crew of Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman.