Neil Jordan and Nick Nolte have track records that even the most charitable would class as, well, patchy. In Jordan's case, for every Crying Game or Mona Lisa, there's been an In Dreams or a - shudder - We're No Angels. As for Nolte, you need to wade through a whole slew of shonky Hollywood efforts to get to the genius performances of, say, Q&A, 48 Hrs and Affliction.
So what we have here are two men looking for redemption, hunting for a bit of luck, in a film that's all about betting everything you've got when the cards fall in your favour. Thankfully, with The Good Thief, they've both turned up a full hand of aces.
Nolte is Bob, an avuncular, bearlike crook, living out his days in the south of France. Addicted to heroin and gambling in almost equal amounts, he's nonetheless adored by almost everyone he meets, from the assorted members of his oddball, occasional gang to Anne (Nutsa Kukhianidze), a sultry Russian teen he rescues from the streets. Even Roger (Tchéky Karyo), the local head of police, is more concerned with making sure that Bob doesn't plan any more crimes than he is with actually catching him committing them.
Plotted like a smoky, jazz-driven film noir, but scripted with the precision and charm of the best screwball comedies, The Good Thief is exuberant, sexy and ultimately life-affirming cinema. Jordan directs like a man hungry to make movies again, spinning the camera and drawing the best out of his cast. Not only is Nolte majestically brilliant, but everyone involved turns in a stylish performance (Karyo hasn't been this good since Nikita).
When the worst thing you can say about a movie is that some of the accents are a bit thick, then you know you've just watched a winner.