Picks and Pans Review: The Big Heist

updated 06/11/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/11/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

A&E (Sun., June 10, 9 p.m. ET)

The brilliance of The Sopranos lies in its ability to make viewers laugh one moment and shudder the next. This TV movie, based on a true crime story, tries for a similar effect but can't quite bring it off.

The subject is the 1978 robbery of an estimated $8 million from New York City's Kennedy airport, a case that figured in the 1990 Mob classic GoodFellas. Miscast but game, Donald Sutherland dons a wavy wig, affects a light brogue and dives into the role of heist organizer Jimmy "the Gent" Burke. In this account, Burke is surrounded by a gang that can't shoot straight—including a would-be soul singer and a dancin' fool with disco fever—and is pursued by a single-minded cop (John Heard). Since the film seems to adopt an attitude of ironic detachment toward its characters, viewers won't be too shaken when people start getting killed. And might there be a bit of blarney in the suggestion that Burke was a comparatively honorable thief?

Bottom Line: Imperfect crime

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