11 Harrowhouse – DVD Review

You can either steal little or you can go big in diamond heist movies. Few films go larger than 11 Harrowhouse when it comes to the targeted loot. The title refers to the address of the world’s largest wholesaler of uncut gems. This would be the place if you aim for a glory grab. Charles Grodin is the least likely suspect to create an elaborate scheme. At the start of the film, he’s merely a guy who buys a minimal amount of diamonds that he brings back to America for resale. He’s merely a middle man. He does hate how John Gielgud treats him as a regular customer. This place’s first level of security is British snobbery.

How does Grodin get ringed into a criminal caper? You can blame him since he’s happy with his life since it also includes making out with Candice Bergen. She’s can’t get married or it’ll ruin her money source. Initially Grodin receives a legitimate offer he can’t refuse. Billionaire Trevor Howard wants a huge diamond that can become his namesake. It’s a million dollar offer which was good money back in 1974. Grodin gets to be more than a crumb snatcher at 11 Harrowhouse as he selects the raw diamond. However something goes horribly wrong during the deal and Grodin ends up owing a lot to Howard. There’s only one way out of the hole – a life of crime.

An important detail about 11 Harrowhouse is that it does not merely sell diamonds. It hordes them in the vault to artificially keep the prices high. There’s billions of uncut rocks in the super high tech safe. It’s a great target. Grodin can’t knock the place off without help from the inside. Luckily he’s got that connection with James Mason. The elderly employee is dying. The company refuses to give his widow his full retirement benefits if he kicks it before he’s served his full time. Mason wants revenge on Gielgud and boosting billions in rocks is just right. The plan is rather complicated with a small crew consisting of Grodin, Bergen, Mason and a cockroach. Can they pull off the heist of the century without waving a gun?

There’s a bit of controversy over Grodin’s voice over. He had gone in after the film was cut and created the audio track. Had he used his star power to defile the film? Not really is the proper answer. This is an extremely quiet film that verges on being silent. The cast of reserved British actors keep most of the non-verbal action sedate. Grodin gives his character’s commentary during the lulls. The film isn’t completely sedate since the last reel is an over the top chase scene involving trucks, race cars and horses. 11 Harrowhouse keeps its unconventional edge through out the heist. You will believe Charles Grodin is the greatest diamond thief ever.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer looks fine without much dust on the frame. The audio is mono. The films is relatively quiet so it won’t overwhelm your speakers.

Trailer (2:31) sells the speed and action.

11 Harrowhouse is a great diamond theft movie. There’s an excellent build up to what brings Charles Grodin into the criminal life. The scheme is divine. They payoff satisfactory. The logic and logistics aren’t confusing. This is much better than George Clooney’s Ocean’s 11 and sequels. While Grodin’s voice over might distract some purists, he ties together scenes with his words. In the end, he does the right job to package the heist.

Shout! Factory presents 11 Harrowhouse. Starring: Charles Grodin, Candice Bergen, James Mason, and John Gielgud. Directed by: Aram Avakian. Screenplay by: Jeffrey Bloom and Charles Grodin. Running time: 95 minutes. Released on DVD: February 2, 2011.