A striking montage sets the scene for "Flawless," a new British heist film starring Demi Moore and Michael Caine. Homogenous clusters of businessmen walk the marbled corridors of a sleek, minimalist corporate headquarters. Then along comes Moore's character, 38-year-old Laura Quinn, who goes it alone in her pearls and wool suit. She walks in opposition to the men, almost as if headed for a collision.
And of course, she is. Quinn is an Oxford-educated businesswoman in 1960s London, the only female executive at the behemoth London Diamond Corporation. Her co-workers, however, are blind to her brainy virtues. When finally she passes three men in the hallway, they turn to check out her behind.
Although she is judicious and hard-working, "always the first to come and the last to leave," Quinn has seen a series of career disappointments: Time and time again, she is passed over for promotions that go to lesser colleagues. One scene has her scribbling about these frustrations on an index card. Holding a cigarette in one hand, she uses the other to draw the zero that represents the number of London Diamond's female executives. This she tears in half and, without thinking twice, tosses it into the wastebasket.
But the nosy janitor, Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine), has been collecting this and other telling scraps. He's on to her disenchantment. In fact, he hopes to take advantage by enlisting Quinn's help in a plot to steal a handful of the company's jewels.
What follows is a dizzying crime story shot through with '60s fashion and the best of all possible contemporary villains: sexist, corporate higher-ups kicking back in their Aeron chairs. How fitting that the president of an insurance company should be among the bad guys.
So, it's one part heist and one part Robin Hood for the middle-manager and custodial sets. This narrative has Quinn dashing through the London streets in her heels with a Jackie O. coat flapping behind. Meanwhile, Hobbs nudges his mop along London Diamond's glistening floors.
Eventually, director Michael Radford can't help but saddle his heroine with all the requisite and humdrum gender stereotypes. But thankfully, he abstains from doing so until the very end. For about 100 of its 108 minutes, this film treats the viewer to a stylish, suspenseful roller coaster peppered with all manner of ugly, money-grubbing corporate types.