The Quarantine Stream: 'The Hot Rock' Follows Robert Redford's Quest to Steal a Very Large Diamond

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Film: The Hot Rock

Where You Can Stream It: The Criterion Channel

The Pitch: Robert Redford plays a talented thief who gets out of jail and is immediately roped into participating in the heist of a hefty African diamond. But the heist gets screwed up, so he tries to steal it again. And then again. And then again…

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Many heist films follow the same template: introduce the hero, introduce the prize, get a team together, lay out the plan, something goes wrong during the job, the hero ends up walking away with the prize in hand. The Hot Rock mixes up that formula by creating a heist movie with multiple heists in it – only the heists are done by the same people and they’re trying to steal the same object the whole time. While the movie sometimes veers into goofy territory, fans of the genre will appreciate the fun twists and seeing the protagonists scramble as things go wrong over and over again.

Just a few years after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Redford is in fine form here as John Dortmunder, who is hired by the United Nations delegate of an African nation to steal a diamond that has historical significance for his country. He’s a cool-headed guy who’s quick on his feet in tough situations – and it’s a good thing, because he encounters plenty of ’em in this movie. Example: while trying to swipe the diamond from the Brooklyn Museum, Dortmunder and his team try to lift a giant protective glass case off the diamond so one of their guys can grab it, only for them to accidentally drop the glass and trap their guy inside with the diamond just as the security guards have gotten hip to their plan.

George Segal (California Split), Zero Mostel (The Producers, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), Ron Leibman (Garden State), and Paul Sand (Eerie, Indiana), and Moses Gunn (Shaft) co-star, and the film is directed by Bullitt helmer Peter Yates and written by Oscar winner William Goldman (The Princess Bride, All the President’s Men). If you love heist films, this is a must-see.

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