Martin Sheen-Albert Finney’s ‘Loophole’ out on Blu-ray
Good heist movies have always involved displays of meticulous skill. In the opening scene of Loophole (1981) gangsters, working with drills and nitroglycerine through droplets, open a safe with great care. The tense silence screams: one wrong move! Next scene, counting out the money, they discover they have stolen a decidedly small fortune that was not worth the danger.
But the ringleader, Daniels (Albert Finney), has bigger plans. And to penetrate the underground vault of London’s most secure bank, which holds uncounted wealth, he’ll need to recruit a new man, one with engineering or architectural skills. He turns to Booker (Martin Sheen), an American expatriate whose high-flying architectural firm has just gone bust. Only Booker is reluctant. “I’m an honest man!” he insists, eyes glaring fiercely.
Loophole is a candidate for the neo-noir genre, more for its content than its form. In contrast to 1940s noir, the rooms in Loophole have Venetian window blinds but the sunlight casts few long shadows. Unlike The Third Man’s sewer, which suggests a subterranean anti-cathedral, the sewers of Loophole’s London are merely disgusting.
But Loophole shares noir’s labyrinthine sensibility of deception and moral quandary. Although his background is never explained, Daniels is a respected member of British society, a family man with a country home who apparently turned to crime to maintain his lavish living and introduces himself to Booker through an elaborate ruse. Booker is about to lose everything; he has kids in expensive schools and a wife with extravagant plans. Faced with ruin, he throws his lot in with Booker.
Not quite a perfect film (but then few films noir reached that height), Loophole spends a bit too much time in the sewer, weakening the tense pace it maintained early on. And yet it has many small but meaningful visuals. Sex is linked with success (Booker’s wife shrinks from him in bed as he flounders financially). As Booker meets Daniels at a private club, a bust of Hermes, the trickster god, sits between them; one of Daniels’ men reads a book called Managing Your Money while keeping lookout. Whether or not the gang will have any money to manage provides Loophole with its suspense.