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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Hot Rock (1972)


Starring: Robert Redford, George Segal, Ron Leibman and Paul Sand
Distributor: Spirit Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: PG
Release Date: 03 June 2013

Dortmunder, a career criminal, gets out of prison, not for the first time, only tentatively meaning to go straight. His Brother-in-law has a different idea and asks Dortmunder to plan the heist of his life, to steal a valuable diamond from a museum. It’s a risky job, but the gang have no idea just how difficult the job would turn out to be...

The Hot Rock (1972 - 1 hr, 36 min, 41 sec) is an action comedy, directed by Peter Yates (Bullitt 1968, Krull 1983), from a William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969, Marathon Man 1976) screenplay. With those two on board the film's credentials were impeccable.

The film stared Robert Redford as Dortmunder and George Segal as his brother-in-law, Kelp. Both these actors were, at this time, at the height of their popularity. Music was by Quincy Jones. The film was nominated for an OSCAR in 1973 for editing.

With this array of talent, what could go wrong? Well, nothing did. The film isn’t deep; it’s a comedy heist movie with engaging actors, a good script and director. The word that springs to mind when watching the film is ‘slick’, everyone involved is a near master of their art and makes the whole thing look effortless, laid back and cool.

Having been made in 1972, the film is almost a period piece, smart without ever getting smarmy. It still holds up, even if Redford’s side burns look a little anachronistic. The characterisations are a little different, probably to enhance the comedic aspects of the story. Where the diamond they seek to steal is flawless, the gang are thoroughly flawed. They have a driver who isn’t great at driving, a lock pick who loses his abilities when under pressure, Kelp is an idiot and Dortmunder is a slave to a bad stomach.

The unlikely quartet are hired by the ambassador of a fictitious African country who does not trust the UN to decide ownership of the diamond. There are two countries claiming it, so would rather have the gang steal it, just in case the UN does not come down on his countries side. Played by Moses Gunn, the ambassador can’t believe that the gang keep losing the diamond only to have to steal it back again and again. Zero Mostel turns up in a good character role as a dodgy lawyer who refuses to give up the diamond, even when the gang threaten to throw his son down a lift shaft.

With such a good pedigree it’s a shame that the print on the DVD can, at best, be described as passable. There has been no visible attempt at restoring the film; in fact the evident pull at the start of the film gives the impression that the movie was transferred straight from an original print. This is further reinforced by the visible artefacts at the beginning of the film, although this does settle down.

It’s probably not the best heist movie you will see, but it’s up there with the best of them, it’s a shame the same can’t be said about the presentation. The film comes with only a single extra, the theatrical trailer.


Charles Packer

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