A sadistic crime thriller in which the milk of human kindness never flows, LOVE, CHEAT & STEAL is glossily photographed, chillingly performed, and sleekly directed.
Itching to give his self-serving ex-wife Lauren (Madchen Amick) a taste of her own medicine, jailbird Reno Adams (Eric Roberts) lives for the day his mechanically adept but moronic cellmate Billy Quayle (Richard Edson) effects their jail break. Leaving a trail of corpses in his wake, Reno
appears at the mansion Lauren shares with her new spouse, steadfast banker Paul Harrington (John Lithgow), and claims to be her estranged brother. Meanwhile, Paul discovers that his family's bank is being used to launder Colombian drug money, a scheme masterminded by community pillar Hamilton Fisk
(Dan O'Herlihy) and a yuppie bank official named Whit (Jason Workman). Lauren, who genuinely loves her father-figure husband, tries to stay cool as Reno refuses to accept any of her excuses for setting him up seven years ago. After carting off the Harrington's wall safe, which contains floor plans
of the bank, Reno offers Lauren a deal. If she'll help him rob Paul's bank, he'll let them both live.
As Paul investigates Whit's handling of overdue loans and traces the laundered cash to safety deposit boxes, Lauren installs Reno and Billy in a motel, where the trio finalizes plans for the heist, and then wheedles the truth out of Paul regarding his troubles with the drug cartel. After Lauren
obtains the bank vault code, the intricate robbery proceeds without a hitch, although Reno gets temporarily trapped in a time-lock vault. But Lauren doesn't know that trigger-happy Reno deals with his post-crime stress by senselessly killing both Billy and Whit, who's supposed to be the fall guy.
This leaves Lauren the only loose end. Just as Reno is about to permanently sever ties with her, Paul bursts into their hideout, apparently enraged. After momentarily incapacitating Reno, Paul shoots Lauren, and Reno drives off with a stolen ambulance full of cash. What the drug dealers don't know
is that Lauren (not Whit) stole their safety deposit box contents while Reno was taking regular bank funds. By the time police pick up fall guy Reno for the theft, Paul and Lauren (whose shooting was faked with blanks) begin new lives abroad with the fortune they pilfered from the safety deposit
boxes. In the pen, Reno once again lives for the day he can make Lauren sorry she was ever born.
It's a tribute to writer-director William Curran that he can tie together so many double-crosses without tipping his hand to the audience. Naturally, viewers will suspect that Paul and Lauren have a few tricks up their sleeves in outsmarting their persecutors, but the extent of their own
creative larceny is both astonishing and edifying. They save the bank and their lives, while the bad guys have to clean up each other's messes. What limits the appeal of this adventure-in-revenge is that the film doesn't create much audience sympathy for Lauren and Paul; they're one-dimensional
protagonists who perform their plot function well but don't make us co-conspirators in their maneuvers. Far more enthralling is the revenge-junkie Reno, a sadist who gets high dreaming of new ways to settle old scores. This sociopath, who kills as easily as if he were crumpling a cigarette pack,
will give viewers the willies even if it is a stretch to believe that Lauren could fool him a second time.
Roberts' creepy performance would have award potential if it were in a high-profile movie. Smartly cast down to the minor roles, intelligently working in high-tech gadgetry to enhance the heist sequence, and intertwining plot strands so that even minor incidents like Reno planting Lauren's lost
earring at the bank play a part in the denouement, LOVE, CHEAT & STEAL throws all its curve balls at the audience with effortless skill. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, excessive profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: A sadistic crime thriller in which the milk of human kindness never flows, LOVE, CHEAT & STEAL is glossily photographed, chillingly performed, and sleekly directed. Itching to give his self-serving ex-wife Lauren (Madchen Amick) a taste of her own medic… (more)
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