So, I bumped this review back to give myself more time to finish the novel. Well, that didn't happen. Life got busy. And I didn't get incredibly far, either. But from what I got from it, I enjoyed it. The novel is a totally quick and quirky comedy heist story with larger-than-life characters and scenarios. I was particularly excited for the film version, as well. First off, it stars Robert Redford, who I've loved in both films I've watched of his for this project. Second, the screenplay was done by William Goldman, who also wrote/adapted Butch Cassidy, Heat, and The Princess Bride. So I figure if anyone can capture this novel with its characters and dialogue, he can. To top it all off, the premise is outstanding.
So color me disappointed.
The Hot Rock gives us the story of John Dortmunder (Robert Redford), a recently released criminal who immediately gets a heist job from his brother-in-law, Kelp (George Segal). A man named Dr. Amusa (Moses Gunn) wants a special diamond being held in a museum because it is symbolic for his people in an African nation. So they put a team together that also includes Murch (Rob Leibman) and Greenberg (Paul Sand). Unfortunately, despite their brilliant plans, things don't go so well, and everything starts going downhill. This leads them on a wild mission that forces them to have to pull heist after heist to try and steal this diamond again and again.
Perhaps it's better I didn't finish the novel, as I might have enjoyed the film even less. This novel would probably be excellently adapted in the hands of, say, The Coen Brothers (though it doesn't typically meet their standards of violence or absurd endings). This particular adaptation, however, really failed to grab the quirk and humor of the novel. I did notice it was somewhat there in the script, so maybe it wasn't totally the fault of William Goldman.
This brings me to my next point--the actors/directing. The story is played so straight and the actors so flat, it's no wonder the movie felt lifeless. That was my biggest problem. There was no fun or excitement that would typically go with, really, any heist comedy. None of the actors have chemistry with each other. There's no life to their words (especially Redford, which saddens me). At the very least, Dortmunder is the straight man of the bunch, but he's also like the Danny Ocean. But he was not smooth or charming. He was just... dull.
The music (or lack thereof) is also partly to blame. When there was a soundtrack, it never really did anything to elevate the mood. But the majority of the time, there was nothing. Now, I've run across a handful of films on this list alone that have been able to pull off the nearly empty soundtrack yet still give us a tight film. This was not one of them. It desperately needed... something.
I do think, though, on the whole, that it wasn't a bad film. It just could have been so much better. As it is, it's OK. I know I said a bunch of negative, but it was still somewhat fun to see the different heists and whatnot (even if I don't agree with how they do the last one). And you might wonder what my thoughts would be had I not compared it to the book. Keep in mind--I only got maybe 25% through the book. Even if I hadn't read what I did, I still would have felt the same about the blandness, especially in comparison to its potential based on the premise alone. Oh well...