There's nothing swinging about the 1960s London where Demi Moore, as an ambitious diamond company exec named Laura Quinn, finds herself in the engaging, if flawed, Flawless.
A heist picture, a feminist revenge fantasy, and an excuse for Michael Caine to re-deploy his Cockney accent as a wily old janitor, Flawless finds the actress in sharp, smart business attire, using a mid-Atlantic accent (she's a U.S. ex-pat, educated at Oxford and long residing in England), and spending her off hours alone in her apartment, having a meal, a cigarette and listening to jazz.
The Beatles, Darling, minidresses and mods - not part of Miss Quinn's equation. All she cares about is advancing her career at the London Diamond Corp. But after bumping her head on that glass ceiling - less qualified, less experienced male colleagues keep getting the managerial spot she deserves - it's time for some payback.
Actually, it's Hobbs, Caine's hunched-over custodian, who presents Quinn with the plan: He has figured out how to access the company's subterranean, steel-encased vaults - Hobbs is down there in the dead of night, mopping and sweeping - and how to steal enough shiny little multifaceted, multi-carat gems to make them both millionaires.
Directed by Michael Radford (White Mischief, Il Postino) in a suitably classy, unflashy manner, Flawless offers the unexpected turns of a good thriller, but is compromised here and there by awkward, out-of-character moments (Moore's Quinn is cool and composed in one scene, inexplicably frazzled and panicky the next) and plot twists that are just a bit much. (The elegant businesswoman slogging through the London sewers with a faulty flashlight? Please.)
But Moore gives an interesting performance, crafty, quiet and sexy in a buttoned-up way. Caine, pushing his cart around and not missing a trick, isn't exactly doing any heavy lifting, but his Hobbs is likable and full of surprises, too. If the screenplay's tumultuous machinations - trouble in the South African diamond mines, sinister insurance company double-dealing - seem a bit strained, well, they are.
And the filmmakers' narrative device of framing Quinn's tale as a feature-length flashback doesn't pay off - we get a goody-two-shoes moral lesson at the end, and a look at movie studio aging makeup gone wild.
Flawless **1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Michael Radford. With Michael Caine, Demi Moore, Joss Ackland and Lambert Wilson. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity, adult themes)
Playing at: Ritz Five
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or email@example.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://go.philly.com/onmovies.