IT TAKES nerves of steel and a splash of hubris to title your film Foolproof as Toronto writer-director William Phillips has done. Generally speaking, cultural law dictates that any film whose title, however plot-descriptive, suggests the work is fail-safe will be anything but—excepting, of course, the John Cusack swoon-fest The Sure Thing. Even more discouraging, Foolproof has been bestowed the honour of getting the widest Canadian film release in the country’s history (as many as 200 screens nationwide), although it has yet to find a U.S. distributor. Uh-oh. There go the warning bells. Worse, Foolproof Is also an almost-all-Canadian stab at a biggish-budget action flick that has zero
pretensions about art, and credits Atom Egoyan, one of the country’s signature auteurs, as executive producer. On paper, Foolproof sounds confused—at best.
Onscreen, however, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this picture. Canadian cinema tends to be either quirky and selfeffacing, or ponderous and ethnic, but Foolproof is neither. It’s just a crime movie— a wholly competent, thoroughly entertaining heist flick with flashes of style and humour—whose cinematography and dialogue recall the bump-a-minute joyride of, say, Sneakers more than the excessively gothic, lately boring, machinations of David Mamet. Vancouver’s snarkiest son, Ryan
Reynolds, best known for playing the namesake in the gross-out college romp National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, is the celebrity draw, and the film’s only lesson is that crime does pay so long as you’re really streetwise and in bed with a British gangster. Take note, aspiring burglars.
Kevin (Reynolds) is a mild-mannered insurance investigator by day, but spends his downtime with old university friends Samantha (Kristin Booth) and Rob (Joris Jarsky) planning robberies that are roughly as complicated as negotiating peace in the Middle East. The gimmick is that they only plan crimes as an intellectual game, and have never actually broken in anywhere because they’ve got the good sense God gave them. But when a crew of real criminals headed up by suave British gangster Leo Gillette (David Suchet) steals one of their plans and successfully executes a diamond heist, the kingpin blackmails the youngsters into stealing $20 million in corporate bonds—threatening to otherwise turn in the group’s diamond plan to police. Gillette thinks crime trumps friendship and wants the trio to embrace a life of back-stabbing evil, but Kevin and his pals aren’t so sure. After all, they’re BFFs—best friends forever.
Even for a movie so small in scope—one that’s obsessed with details like the sorts of screws used in alarm panels—Foolproof succeeds. Though it’s a paint-by-numbers crime drama with little in the way of character development, the acting is smooth, the heroes are funny and the robbery is tense. Reynolds, the Seann William Scott of Canada, is the king of arched eyebrows, and with an equally arch wit he plays off Jarsky’s paranoid Rob, a nail-biter who serves as tech wizard and owner of the unreliable getaway vehicle. Booth’s Samantha is a little sexy and a little wild, an athletic young woman who exclaims “Whoo!” a lot. Suchet portrays Gillette as an oily gourmet, a crime boss who looks and behaves like he went to Hannibal Lecter College and made honour roll.
It’s all derivative, but it’s all fun, too. What’s more, between the suspense, the triple-crossings and the satisfying denouement, Foolproof turns out to be entertaining and rather intelligent. For those who’d like the Canadian screen to be less wimpy, Phillips’s film proves that the land of Dudley Do-Right can also be home to Actionjackson. 171
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