The Good Thief Is A Worthy Remake Of Bob Le Flambeur
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The good thing about classic cinema is that given enough time passed, old movies will be ripe enough to be recycled into brand-new interpretations. There’s always a film out there waiting for a inspired young filmmaker to look at it with fresh eyes and apply his magic on it. For the film The Good Thief, director Neil Jordan remade iconic French film director Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob le Flambeur (Bob the Gambler), of which there’s also a review on this website. Coming from two completely different eras, both films are hard to pit against each other, but it may be possible.
But first, a quick summary of The Good Thief. The film is about Bob (played by Hollywood legend Nick Nolte, who leads the cast; the character’s name is even carried over from Bob le Flambeur), who is a past-his-prime gambler, con artist, and heroin addict who, like the Bob in the original, is down on his luck.
The plot of the film follows the original: Bob goes for one last job, a big heist in a casino in Monte Carlo (instead of a different French city). The police has knowledge of his planned heist, but an investigator friend Bob has will protect him. Bob hires a team to help him with the heist, and also encounters Anne, a female who may impede Bob’s plans. And like in the original movie, despite the police coming in to try and foil the heist, he manages to win big. Oh, and Ralph Fiennes also makes an uncredited appearance somewhere.
As mentioned earlier, Melville’s Bob le Flambeur is a product of a different time, and obviously of a different personal style. That film has its own pace and aesthetic, spearheading the birth of French New Wave cinema while still staying true to the conventions of old Hollywood. Black and white, big soaring scores, even a little old-school sexism is what it is. The Good Thief is modern Hollywood through and through, definitely slicker, much more refined, written with purpose, and conspicuously stylish. It’s not so much a personal reinvention, but a retread of a movie that new Hollywood found worthy of a remake. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, at all.
What The Good Thief does try to do is to imbue Melville’s original story with its own crazy style, similar to Bob le Flambeur. It’s already somewhat evident in the film’s trailer, which you can check out here:
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It’s worth noting that Nick Nolte does one hell of a job as his turn as Bob, anchoring the cast and bringing to the performance a gritty, world-traveled character that I’m sure a lot of fans would want to emulate when they grow older, just for how effortlessly cool it is. In his review of The Good Thief, Roger Ebert concludes that Nolte was born to play Bob, and I would have to agree.
There are only a few notable actors in this day and age who could come close to bringing a character like that to life the way Nolte did.
In fact, one would even say that despite that scarcity, roles like that are starting to become cliched, especially with the gamut of gritty movies and harsher remakes. If we can give The Good Thief any credit, it would have to be for being ahead of its time, ahead of a trend that’s starting to devolve into self-parody. But that’s a story for another day.
If you’ve seen Bob le Flambeur and are interested in seeing how a 2000s remake would fare, then go watch The Good Thief. If you really just want to watch a good casino caper, then I would suggest this movie as well. The Good Thief really is a worthy tribute to the original, lovingly created and acted by all involved. If anyone ever tells you that remakes will never be as good as their source material, tell them about this film and show them that not all of them are made equal.
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