Stephen Booker (Martin Sheen) is a successful architect who works on both sides of the Atlantic, with a home he has designed himself for his wife Dinah (Susannah York) and their two children in Britain. Or he used to be a successful architect, as he is informed by his boss that their business has failed to secure the big contract they wanted, and as a result will be closed, leaving Stephen without a job, or indeed an income. Should he start panicking yet? But there is someone else who will soon be entering his life, one Mike Daniels (Albert Finney), who will have a proposition for him that could save his skin. If only Daniels wasn't a professional criminal, Booker would have a clear conscience...
Loophole was a heist movie made when the form was around ten years away from there genre's big revival in the nineteen-nineties, and in 1981 it failed to find an audience, a minor disaster at the box office meaning it was sold to television with undue haste since the production reasoned it didn't make any money among the cinemagoers, so why not claw back some of the expenditure that way? Even so, it did not make much of an impression on television either, perfect late night, just before bed viewing in the eighties, but probably because it was easy to watch and not exactly one to press on the memories when it practically resembled a TV drama or thriller in the first place.
There was a lot distinctly televisual here, and though the cast featured Finney and Sheen, they were getting a shade past their prime, and Finney in particular was trying a return to the movie spotlight this year which begat a bunch of underachievers, suggesting his time as a leading man was coming to an end and character parts were his destiny from now on. He did manage to headline a few more film and television series - Sheen had his miniseries turn as JFK on the way in the eighties too - so it was not as if their careers were drawing to a close, but if they wanted to remain headliners they should probably have picked something more exciting than this, which erred on the side of plodding.
The chief issue was there was very little sense of peril, even as Daniels snares Booker in his web to set him up as a partner in his heist on a London bank vault; when Booker discovers he has been duped (he would much rather be working on the level) he is furious, yet as he is not getting any other offers and he doesn't want to sell his house, leave his family destitute and take his kids out of school and his wife away from her budding small business, he doesn't have much choice, which was what his new cohort was counting on all this time. Therefore after far too long establishing this relationship between the two men, we meet the gang and find out what their plan is: break into the vault through the sewers, through the walls and up into the floor of the room, whereupon they can help themselves to the loot.
This part of the plot took up pretty much half the movie, so if you liked your heist flicks with a meticulous air and plenty of detail about how the men on their mission were going about their crime, then this was the entertainment for you. For everyone else, it was simply too straightforward, and even the introduction of a gas leak (handily turning the detector lights red for dramatic effect) which incapacitates one of the gang (Alfred Lynch - who gets nibbled by rats!) felt like small beer when the rest of the scheme was proceeding so by the numbers. This all changed when the finale occurred and some form of comeuppance was contrived, an act of God that came across like a Biblical flood, and that was visually striking at least, yet did not succeed dramatically when after spending this time with a methodical narrative, it simply omitted key details in favour of a surprise ending that made no sense. It was as if they wanted to wrap things up speedily and had snipped a crucial scene that would have explained it all. Music by Lalo Schifrin.