The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973)

the thief who came to dinner 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Detective hounds jewel thief.

Webster (Ryan O’Neal) is a bored computer programmer who has grown cynical of the business world and decides to become a modern day Robin Hood. He does so by stealing paperwork listing illegal activities of a corrupt politician (Charles Cioffi) and uses this to blackmail him into giving the addresses of his rich and equally corrupt pals. He then robs them of their jewels while with the help of a local fence (Ned Beatty) resells them and keeps half the profits. He even manages to get into a hot relationship with a beautiful woman (Jacqueline Bisset), but just as things start to click insurance investigator Dave Reilly (Warren Oates) gets on the case who’s determined to expose and nab Webster anyway he can.

The film, which was written by Walter Hill and based on a novel by Terence Lore Smith, has a slick even smug attitude about it. It has some interesting ingredients, but never really gels. Webster pulls off these robberies with such relative ease that they are barely interesting to watch. The scene where he gets rear-ended by an old lady and then chased throughout the streets of Houston when he cannot produce proper identification to the police is fun, but there needed to be more of this and the otherwise laid-back pace does not help.

the thief who came to dinner 2

Despite his good looks O’Neal is a weak leading man although here he isn’t too bad. Still the supporting cast easily upstages him especially Oates and had he been made the star this film would’ve been far better. The scene where his car breaks down while tailing O’Neal and then having O’Neal turn around to help him fix it is quite amusing as is Oates’ final act of defiance towards his superiors after he gets fired.

Austin Pendleton is quite funny as an obsessed chess player and Beatty is great as a caricature of a ‘good ole’ boy’ Texas con-man and he really deserved more screen time. Bisset is wasted, but looks beautiful as always and I really digged her ritzy, spacious house that outside of a two lamps had no furniture at all.

The production has very much of a European flair, but its sophisticated façade quickly wears thin. You keep waiting for it to catch its stride, but it never does making it fluffy and forgettable including its wide-open non-ending.

the thief who came to dinner 1

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 1, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Bud Yorkin

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS

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