De Niro! Brando! Norton! Trumpeted like a summit of marquee Method actors, those names were supposed to deliver the year’s twistiest caper. But it was another set of cons who nicked this heavyweight trio’s belt while they were snoozing: the ones in David Mamet’s Heist. Now we could point out that, pound for pound, Gene Hackman oozed more last-big-score desperation than De Niro did. But instead, let’s give the close-up to his utility man – Jay’s ”Pinky.” With his narcoleptic eyes and a hangdog face that looks more like a side of roast beef than the puss of a movie star, the 53-year-old magician-turned-Mamet staple brought the same sleight of hand to acting that he does to a deck of cards. In a scene where Hackman’s being chased by the cops, it’s the quick-on-the-uptake Pinky who wanders into traffic to get hit by a car as a diversion. Still, it’s Jay’s ease with Mamet’s tough-guy patter that would make most actors jealous. Delivering what may be the greatest line in a film teeming with great lines, Pinky defends his boss thusly: ”My motherf – -er’s so cool that when sheep go to bed, they count him.” Coming from Jay, the delivery’s pure magic.
Posted December 21 2001 — 12:00 AM EST
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