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Monday, 27 January, 2003, 15:36 GMT
DiCaprio pulls off fine stunt
Leonardo DiCaprio
Frank convinces everyone he is a co-pilot

Leonardo DiCaprio puts his Gangs of New York role in the shade with a fine portrayal of a real-life con artist in Oscar hopeful Catch Me If You Can.

The actor has been a busy boy lately, with the release of Gangs of New York - in which he struggles as a vengeful tribal warrior - coming within weeks of Catch Me If You Can.

Gangs of New York may have been hailed as a cinematic epic, but it is no fluke that Catch Me If You Can has taken twice as much at US box offices.

It may not be a film masterpiece, but Catch Me If You Can achieves its goal of being a feel-good slice of escapism that skims along on the froth of film with few pretensions to seriousness.

Tom Hanks
The FBI have trouble tracking down the con artist
DiCaprio's performance as Frank W Abagnale far outshines that in Gangs of New York, and he excels as a slightly awkward teen who gets carried away when he discovers how easy it is to pull the wool over other peoples' eyes.

It starts when he moves to a new school and, picked on as the new boy on his first day, decides to stride to the front of the class and pretend to be a supply teacher.

The pupils believe him and he proceeds to teach French for several weeks.

So when his home life begins to fall apart, he looks for a way out and creates a new identity by forging cheques and getting hold of an airline pilot's uniform.

As his scams keep working, the deceptions become more audacious. We do not see him as a criminal - but a prankster whose simple games fool the biggest companies and authorities with hilarious ease.

Leo is at his best and the role requires more depth than meets the eye.

He shows enough of the complex adolescent undertones to make the character whole - but the audience really falls for him when he plays up the part of the dashing chancer living by his charm and wits.

Leonardo DiCaprio
DiCaprio turns on the charm
The chasing is done by Tom Hanks, an uptight FBI agent who makes it his mission in life to track down this hoaxer as he hops around the United States and the world.

Hanks is supposed to be an unsympathetic embodiment of the emotionless authorities, but mainly succeeds in looking slightly constipated when he is going for an air of pained obsession.

With Stephen Spielberg behind the cameras, it should have been a cinematic dream team. As good as it is, it will not go down as a classic.

But it was never meant to be anything more than a light-hearted caper, smooth and glamorous like Ocean's Eleven. And it does not try to con you into thinking it is anything else.

Catch Me If You Can is released across the UK on Friday.


Quiz, interviews, pictures and more on the BBCi Film siteBBCi Films
Catch Me If You Can special feature on BBCi
See also:

27 Jan 03 | Entertainment
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