In 1984 Tom Selleck was still a major TV star thanks to the success of Magnum PI. However, I imagine that he was still feeling a bit of a sting from having to turn down the role of Indiana Jones due to his commitments to that show. Still, attempts were being made to turn him into a movie star. In 84 he appeared in two films, neither of which burned up the box office. There was Runaway which pit him against Gene Simmons and some robot bugs – and then there was this film, Lassiter.
Selleck plays Nick Lassiter, an American thief living in London in the late 1930’s. The world is on the verge of war, but Lassiter has it pretty easy, living the good life with his girl, Sara (Jane Seymour). One day, fresh off of pulling a job, Nick is brought in by the cops and fingered in a line up. Nick soon learns this is all a set up, though, when Inspector Becker (Bob Hoskins) and an FBI agent named Breeze (Joe Regalbuto) inform him that he is needed to steal some diamonds from the German embassy. Supposedly lifting these diamonds will put a dent in the Nazi war effort. Ultimately, Lassiter has no choice – if he refuses he’ll be sent to jail.
Lassiter begins to scope out the place and finds the perfect way in is to cozy up to German agent, Kari Von Fursten (Lauren Hutton). Turns out, though, that Kari has a thing for pain…inflicting it, that is. She even goes so far as to murder her lovers mid-coitus. As he gets closer with Kari, of course, Sara become more upset. However, though he loves Sara, he’s got to use Kari to get inside the embassy to find the diamonds. Meanwhile, he begins to hatch a plan double cross the cops and the FBI.
Though Selleck was struggling with his film career at this point, he still managed to appear in some fairly solid films. High Road to China, released the previous year, is an underrated adventure. Lassiter is also not a bad little adventure, if not terribly flashy. Selleck is well cast as a suave jewel thief and he fits very well in the 30’s setting (as he did in the 20’s with High Road to China). What the film is lacking is a few standout moments that make the film really memorable. The story all unfolds in a pretty straight-forward way that, though well done, lacks any umph.
As I said, Selleck is quite good in this, but his performance is overshadowed by several of the supporting cast members. We begin with Lauren Hutton, whose performance is not particularly strong, but is so darn bizarre. The most memorable moment of the film is her executing a lover as she wriggles on top of him. On the other side of the coin is the eternally luminous Jane Seymour, who isn’t give a whole lot to do but lights up every scene she’s in. Who really steals the show, however, is Bob Hoskins. He works his magic to a play a character that manages to be both repellent and lovable all at the same time.
Selleck wouldn’t manage to be a more bankable movie star until Three Men and a Baby hit in 1990. That’s not to say he wasn’t putting in a solid effort. Though Lassiter doesn’t do a lot to distinguish itself, it still manages to be a fairly solid crime/spy adventure.