1984’s Lassiter was a pretty obvious attempt to cash in on Tom Selleck‘s popularity from Magnum, P.I. It’s also surprisingly good. The film was directed by Roger Young, who also helmed the first episode of for Magnum (as well as the TV mini-series adaptation of The Bourne Identity starring Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith). Although a little dated in spots, the film holds up fairly well nearly 30 years after its initial release.
On the eve of World War II, framed for a crime he didn’t commit, London’s premiere cat burglar Nick Lassiter (Selleck) is pressured by a British Police Investigator (Bob Hoskins) and an agent of the FBI (Joe Regalbuto) to use his unique skill set to break into German Embassy in London and steal $10 million in precious uncut gems.
Given only a 48-hour window the thief must break into the heavily guarded embassy, charm the beautiful but deadly and sadistic Nazi diplomat (Lauren Hutton), and figure a way to make it out with both the gems and his hide intact. Despite the hopelessness of the situation, and his desire to run away with his girl (Jane Seymour), Lassiter knows he has no choice but to go through with the robbery (even knowing it’s unlikely, even if he survives, that the cops will keep up their end of the bargain).
With the help of his friend Smoke (Ed Lauter), Lassiter comes up with a complicated plan with a slim chance of success. What follows is an adventure caper full of deceptions, half-truths, lies, and twists as the thief tries to stay one step ahead of the cops who want to throw him in prison and the Nazis who want him dead.
The plays on common movie themes of a thief who has stronger character and morals than the cops who use increasingly questionable methods in order to attempt to take him down. Hopkins is terrific as the copper with a mean streak a mile long and a hard-on to take Lassiter down, no matter what gets in his way. He’s exactly the kind of character you’ll love to hate. Although not as suave as John Robie (Cary Grant) in To Catch a Thief (then again, who is?), Lassiter certainly has enough charm to get the job done.
The film was recently released on DVD (sorry no Blu-ray) for the first time. Although the one-disc DVD doesn’t include a single extra it marks one of Selleck’s better film projects and is certainly worth a look, especially for heist fans (like me). Selleck works well in the leading role and the film has a triumvirate of attractive co-stars in Seymour, Hutton, and Belinda Mayne (who has a small, but memorable, scene as one of the thief’s victim’s in the movie’s opening scene).