Film: The Hot Rock

"How many times does it take to steal the same diamond?"
Tagline for the movie.

The Hot Rock is a 1972 comic caper film written by William Goldman and directed by Peter Yates, starring Robert Redford, George Segal and Moses Gunn. The film was based upon Donald E. Westlake's novel of the same name, which introduced his long-running Dortmunder character.

John Dortmunder (Redford) has just been released from his latest stint in prison when he is approached by his brother-in-law, Andy Kelp (Segal), about a prospective job offer: stealing a valuable diamond that is on display in a Brooklyn museum. The stone originated from an African nation, where is was stolen by a rival country during colonial times, and has been re-stolen on multiple occasions since. After a meeting with The Backer, Dr. Amusa (Gunn), who is interested in the stone because of its significance to his people in Africa, Dortmunder reluctantly agrees to the heist, and he and Kelp are joined by driver Stan Murch (Ron Leibman) and explosives expert Allan Greenberg (Paul Sand) to pull off the job. Although the plan (and each subsequent plan) basically works, something always seems to go awry, and the crew is forced to steal the diamond again and again.

The Hot Rock contains examples of:

  • Casual Danger Dialog: Dortmunder and Kelp discussing Dortmunder's Gastritis while breaking into the prison.
  • The Comically Serious: Dortmunder. One of the best examples is when he's playing with his baby niece and the kid suddenly starts peeing on him; his completely confused and slightly offended reaction is priceless.
  • Crime After Crime: Dr. Amusa sums it up best.
    "I've heard of the habitual criminal, of course. But I never dreamed I'd become involved with the habitual CRIME."
  • Dare to Be Badass: A minor example with the pep talk Dortmunder gives to Kelp when the latter starts to lose his confidence while picking a lock during the museum heist.
    Dortmunder: "I get caught tonight, and that's life for me. And in all the world, who did I choose to take that risk with? You. Now why do you think I did that? Because you've got golden hands, Andrew; those hands can open any lock devised by man."
    Kelp: "You really think I've got golden hands? Maybe they used to be golden, I used to be great—"
    Dortmunder: "You are great now, and you're gonna be legendary."
  • Double Caper: Try quadruple caper.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Murch.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After being foiled multiple times, Dortmunder becomes determined to steal the diamond, no matter how impossible it seems. He successfully steals it in the end, and practically skips down the street afterwards.
    "I've got no choice. I'm not superstitious, and I don't believe in jinxes, but that stone's jinxed me and it won't let go. I've been damn near bitten, shot at, peed on, and robbed. And worse is gonna happen before it's done, so I'm taking my stand. I'm going all the way. Either I get it, or it gets me."
  • Eat the Evidence: Greenberg swallows the diamond before being caught by the guards at the museum.
  • Eureka Moment: "Miasmo!"
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The crew deliberately invoke this when they wreck a car in front of the museum to draw the guards away from their posts; thanks to Greenberg, the car promptly bursts into flames.
  • The Heist: Again and again and again...
  • Just Got Out of Jail: Dortmunder at the start of the movie.
  • MacGuffin Title: The Rock itself is obviously the MacGuffin.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The diamond. It reaches the point that the monetary value of the diamond is forgotten, and Dortmunder believes that the stone is cursed and his life will never run smoothly until he manages to successfully steal it.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Dr. Amusa and Greenberg's father are shown arriving at the bank right after Dortmunder leaves.
  • Oh Crap!: Dortmunder and Kelp's reaction to realizing that the bank requires a signature confirmation to access a deposit box.
  • Open Sesame: At the end of the movie, Dortmunder finally gets the sought-after diamond after a bank guard was given a hypnotic suggestion. He casually utters the key words "Afghanistan banana stand" to the guard - there's some tension as the guard doesn't act hypnotized, but he does follow instructions and opens the deposit box where the diamond is being stored.
  • Plethora of Mistakes: A textbook example.
  • A Simple Plan: Steal the diamond from the museum and collect their fee from Dr. Amusa. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Spanner in the Works: Greenberg's father, Abe. The crew still would have had to pull off heists number two and three (breaking Greenberg out of prison and then breaking into the precinct to recover the diamond from his holding cell), but the fourth heist would have been unnecessary without his interference.
  • Stomach of Holding: As mentioned under Eat the Evidence, Greenburg swallows the diamond before being caught by the guards. During a brief stint in a city jail, it passes through his system and he stows it in his cell (unfortunately, not the same cell that they later break him out of, which leads to heist number three).
    Dr. Amusa: Couldn't you have just... kept swallowing it?
    Greenberg: [queasily]
  • The Strategist: Dortmunder's role. He plans the missions for the crew, and is able to foresee most ways they can go wrong; unfortunately, even he can't keep them from going wrong while they're happening. It says something about how impossible the bank heist is that he spends an entire afternoon trying and failing to come up with a workable plan to infiltrate the vault.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Greenberg's speciality.
  • Thinking Out Loud: Dortmunder spends almost a full minute monologuing to no one in particular about the pros and cons to the museum heist.
    Kelp: "Dortmunder, I don't know where the hell you are or what the hell you're saying."
  • Trigger Phrase: "Afghanistan banana stand."
  • Villain Protagonist
  • We Need a Distraction: So why not stage a car accident in front of the museum!
  • Worst Aid: Deliberately, in-universe, as a distraction, and lampshaded by the guards.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The captain of the precinct the team is infiltrating believes that there's an uprising going on and his station is being attacked as the first blow from a revolution.