Film stars, like everyone else, need to work to pay their bills. Granted their incomes exceed most peoples and their bills match, but they must still work. Thus it is that we find stars featured in films that get smaller releases than most. The odd thing is that while the film may not get a wide release or go straight to DVD, it doesn't mean it isn't as good if not better than big screen fare. Such is the case with THE CODE.
Morgan Freeman stars as Keith Ripley, a professional burglar who has yet to be caught. While working on his next goal he comes across a young upstart named Gabriel Martin (Antonio Banderas) and recruits him. Ripley has a huge heist planned, the culmination of his long heralded career but he needs a partner.
As the story unfolds we also meet Alexandra (Radha Mitchell), the daughter of Ripley's late best friend. Alexandra has caught the eye of Gabriel, much to the chagrin of Ripley. Feeling a debt of protecting his old friend's daughter, he warns Gabriel to steer clear, which of course Gabriel ignores.
It is because of his old friend that Ripley has set in motion his latest scheme. Ripley's old partner owed a debt to a group of Russian mobsters. With his untimely death, the debt was passed on to Ripley who now has no choice but to follow through with the heist they insist he go through to pay off the debt. And Alexandra is the wedge they are using to force his hand.
Ripley plans to steal two unknown Faberge eggs, jewel encrusted ornaments once owned by the Russian royal family, from the Romanovs, a high class Russian jeweler. The eggs are located in their high tech vault. But this is no ordinary vault. This one is voice and fingerprint activated just to get inside the first set of doors. The even bigger problem, the main vault door itself, will take more to crack but only after they get past the security system in place first.
The pair make their plans and plot out everything they can to bypass all obstacles in their way. But even Ripley knows things can go wrong as he warns Gabriel to plan for the unexpected, to learn to adapt as things move forward.
Eventually the Russians capture Alexandra, now romantically involved with Gabriel, and hold her ransom until the job is finished. With time running out and the NYPD on their trail led by Ripley's long time nemesis Lt. Weber (Robert Forster) as well as the FBI, they must move forward with their plans and succeed.
But in a world of thieves where a code of honor is placed between them, not all parties can be trusted. Not the Russians, not the Romanovs, not the police, not Gabriel and especially not Ripley.
The story moves along at a steady pace, giving the necessary information to keep you up to speed with the plans and the plot. The romance here doesn't interfere with the story and actually helps set up characters and affections for later.
Some may claim that the storyline and portions of it seem lifted from other films or familiar but the fact is when it comes to heist films there is little to differentiate one from another with the exception of the acting and pacing. Both are commendable in this film.
Freeman does a great job as the wizened pro who knows the ropes and how to steer clear of a prison sentence. Banderas comes along for the ride and seems to be enjoying himself as he learns Ripley's tricks and applies some of his own along the way. Both actors play well off one another coming off as co-conspirators rather than settling for the old passing the torch along mentality seen in so many films with characters of different ages.
The film offers an entertaining evening should you choose to rent it. For fans of both actors its worth adding to your collection. And it stands as proof positive that you can't judge a DVD based on the popularity of the film prior to its release. First Look Pictures has done a great job with this one. My hope is that they continue to do so in the future.