Einstein once said that “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” So when a few regular guys from Queens are faced with the prospect of a huge pile of cash that’s already been stolen to begin with, what is one to do? Battle with one’s scruples and let the perfect opportunity pass him by? A tale about flawed but worthy men, “The Opportunist”, which won the Festival del Cinema award for Film Noir in Italy, deals with such questions.
Vic Kelly (flawlessly portrayed by Christopher Walken) is an ex-con who tries to be a “regular citizen,” eking out a decent living as an auto mechanic to provide for his daughter Miriam and an elderly aunt living in a senior home run by nuns. He’s a man redeeming himself of a previous life filled with troubles that have left his family fractured. But no matter how honest he tries to be, Vic just can’t seem to make things work and the bills are piling up, the jobs not exactly working out. Despite the facade of normalcy he tries vainly to put up, Vic’s world is about to experience a deja vu of his previous troubled life with the prospect of one last heist that may pull him out of his financial troubles.
Enter Michael (Peter McDonald), recently flown in from Ireland who claims to be his cousin, and two neighborhood guys, Pat (Donal Logue) and Jesus (Jose Zuniga), two night security guards who can’t help thinking about the illicit cash their employer has stashed in the company vault. While Michael has come to New York with dreams of becoming the successful mobster everyone in Ireland thinks Vic Kelly is, Pat and Jesus need Vic’s safe-cracking skills to pull off their idea of a perfect opportunity.
Together they back Vic into a corner until this one last heist seems to be his only way out. Even when his girlfriend Sally (divinely portrayed by Cyndi Lauper) offers to loan him some money to help him out, Vic refuses, admitting that although “the regular citizen thing wasn’t working out too well” he’s got something else he’s working on. Though some parts of the movie dragged, each scene is honest and raw, exposing each character’s emotional intensity. Walken’s performance is sublime and natural, a force to be reckoned with on any film he’s in, and his costars are equally as strong. The streets of Sunnyside, Queens provide an all too real backdrop for this tableau of people encountering problems any person can relate to. There’s enough gritty realism in “The Opportunist” that has you counting the six minutes it takes for Vic to crack the safe before the alarm sounds that even when everything seems to go awry, you find yourself desperately hoping that everything will be all right.