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Cops And Robbers
The true story of one of the greatest scam artists of this century.

"Why do the Yankees always win?" asks Frank W. Abagnale Sr. (Christopher Walken). Taken aback by his fatherís rather unexpected question, Frank Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) surmises probably because they have Mickey Mantle. His father corrects him, "It's because the other team can't take their eyes off the pinstripes". Unwittingly Frank Sr. teaches his son a valuable lesson, that to succeed in life you need to dress the part. With the right kind of threads, pulling the wool over peopleís eyes is childís play.

And this is exactly what Fank Jr. proves true. "Catch Me If You Can" is based on the true-life story of one of the greatest scam artists of the twentieth century, who successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a lawyer, and a doctor and amassed over four million dollars in check fraud - all before his twenty-first birthday.

Frank Jrís exploits start when his idealised suburban life crumbles, culminating in his parentsí divorce. Unable to choose between his father and idol, Frank Abagnale Sr., a smooth-talking, romantic businessman wanted for IRS tax fraud, and his beautiful French mother (Nathalie Baye), Frank Jr. runs away from home and embarks upon his picaresque adventures. His outrageous shenanigans (which include peeling off Pan Am stickers from model aeroplanes and sticking them on forged checks) attract the attention of the plodding FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), who pursues his quarry half way across the world. A staid, almost humourless person, Hanratty is the perfect foil for the flamboyant Frank Jr.

After his futuristic crime thriller "Minority Report", director Spielberg does a volte-face and sets the action of his latest film in the Swinging Sixties. The cleverly animated opening credits, in which a G-man pursues a chameleonic impersonator sets the mood for the cat and mouse game. Unlike recent con artist films, which rely on high tech gizmos to outwit the law, "Catch Me If You Can" has a refreshing appeal as it focuses on its protagonistís immense charisma and ability to dupe people effortlessly. You just canít help admiring Frank Jr.ís chutzpah, whether itís his self-assured role-play as a substitute teacher or the hilarious scene where he slips right through the fingers of the Feds, hot on his trail.

However, the movie isnít without flaws. There are loopholes in the plot, which require a willing suspension of disbelief, but more than that, Spielberg mars the joie de vivre of the crime spree by lingering on the emotional drama behind Abagnaleís sociopathy. Even the battle of wits between Hanratty and Frank Jr. is diluted by moments of sentimentality. The movie truly shines when the audience is allowed to vicariously revel in Frankís audacious ingenuity. Hanks and Walken give a convincing performance but the screen belongs to Leonardo DiCaprio. Thereís something comical yet poignant about the way in which Frank watches TV dramas and picks up dialogues for his different personas, using the very same lines in his real life. At heart, he remains a naÔve kid playing dress up, who shows a vulnerability that belies his conniving mind.

Catch Me If You Can | 2003 | 143 min
starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks
directed by Steven Spielberg
 
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