“you see me doin’ thrill-seeker liquor store holdups with a “born to lose” tattoo on my chest?”

as always, when we’re feeling a little… low on inspiration or original material or whatever, we turn to the old-fashioned listicle containing 13 items to get us through those low times.

this week, i figured i’d come up with something based on a genre (or sub-genre, i guess) of films i tend to enjoy: the heist films (“films that have an intricate plot woven around a group of people trying to steal something”). or, more specifically, heists on films, because i have a theory –and i say this not actually having made the list yet– that some films might have an awesome heist worth discussing, but not really be capital-H Heist capital-F Films. this kind of thing happens sometimes; if the listicle ultimately winds up not including them, i can probably give some examples.

anyway, that being said, let’s get right to it.

13 most enjoyable heists committed to film (or heist films, whatever), at least in the opinion of the honorable janklow

but actually, before we can go forward with this unnecessary list, we need to be clear about some movies that will NOT be appearing on it.

–heists from films that do not actually show the heist: there are some films that get tossed into the “heist film” genre, but don’t actually show the heist; Reservoir Dogs and Goodfellas are both examples of this (in different ways, of course), so while they’re awesome, they won’t be on this list.

–heists from films that are not actual dramas: i don’t much like comedies, but i happen to be aware that there are such things as “caper films” (“heist films with dominant or prominent comic elements”) that are meant to be comedic AND show a heist; good or bad, i’m not putting that shit on my list.

–heists from films that are supposedly great members of this sub-genre that i might not have seen: i’m not going to put the shortcomings of my cinema viewing on blast like that, but on the off chance that i didn’t list a scene you KNOW is awesome… well, maybe i didn’t actually watch that movie yet. i’m man enough to admit that, even if i’m not man enough to list those films here.

and now, on with the list:

Dobermann
yeah… it’s going to be that kind of a heist. and by “that kind,” i clearly mean, “the good kind”

13. the costumed jewel robbery in Snatch (2000)
Snatch is much more about the misadventures of the main characters, with the heist being a small part of it (i think the same thing happened with Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels as well), but i felt compelled to throw this one on the list because apparently some would-be robbers felt compelled to reenact that fictional robbery in 2008. that said, the fictional characters didn’t all seem to survive the film, so i guess it could have been worse, right?

12. the dramatized version of the North Hollywood shootout in 44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out (2003)
…which also wins the award for “best film time that explicitly states what the events of the film are about.” i think we all remember this shoot-out; it certainly seemed like something right out of a movie… and it’s something that many movies have ripped off since, to some extent or another. anyway, here we have the “fuck it, let’s just make a dramatized version of the actual event and slap Michael Madsen in it and call it a day.” let’s be honest: Madsen probably didn’t have much else to do that day.

11. the overly-complicated bank robbery and escape to make the escape in Dobermann (1997)
i’m not arguing Dobermann is a good movie (it’s really not), but it’s certainly a ridiculous one. i might not have been paying close enough attention to the planning being this bank robbery, what with Monica Bellucci spending most of it rocking a light machine gun, because it seems to have an entirely unnecessarily complicated escape from the robbery in it where some of the robbers get away, but don’t really get away, but also were always coming back, and also they have a sniper. it must make SOME sense, because it certainly seems to work. also in this movie’s favor is that the aforementioned Bellucci practically performs a sex act on a shotgun in it. you know, if you’re into that kind of thing.

10. the opening heist of the Town (2010)
true, the later heist (or attempted heist, depending on how you view it) of Fenway Park is much more action-packed, much more colorful, much more over-the-top, much more… everything, really. but the opening heist gives us a great view of the crew’s style: quick, efficient and technically proficient. without it (and other ensuring events), the idea that such a crew would take on Fenway makes no sense at all… and beyond that, it’s simply well-done in the film.

Die Hard
sometimes, these things take a turn for the worse… but you can’t let that kill your holiday spirit!

09. the complicated reverse heisting of Robert Fischer’s brain in Inception (2010)
this really feels like a BIT of a cheat since a) it takes up such a massive amount of the movie and b) we’ve entered a realm where things like “the laws of physics” and “real-world science” are being slightly dispensed with. it’s true that it’s easier to make a cool heist cool under those circumstances, so we’re not going to rate this one too highly. that said, the standard was “greatest heists,” not “greatest realistic heists.” we do what we like around here!

08. the armored car robbery in Dead Presidents (1995)
let me be honest: when i think of Dead Presidents, i mostly think of Keith David declaring that Uncle Sam has “money to burn,” and the movie itself covers a LOT of non-heist ground. however, the climax of the film is obviously the inevitably-fucked-up armored car robbery (somewhat based on true events) that also includes a) some iconic face paint and b) one of the few times Chris Tucker doesn’t disgust me with his on-screen work. the latter makes this heist special.

07. the cracking of the bank vault in the Bank Job (2008)
this film was interesting for several reasons: Jason Statham, action star, not being much of an action star and the complicated and mysterious real-world events in British society connected to the heist are two of them. it’s another heist that eats up a lot of the movie (not the majority, but the entire actual cracking of the vault does take a lot of screen time), but it’s nicely done and goes to show these things don’t HAVE to be shoot-outs all the time. and as far as that goes, i’m giving this one the edge over Thief (another non-shoot-out heist film).

06. the disabling of the time locks on the vault in Die Hard (1988)
come to think of it… you could kind of view most of the Die Hard series as a series of heist films, only i don’t really want to do that because, let’s be honest here, they’re action films. and we all know this. and i’ve said it before, but i’ll say it again: Die Hard is the greatest action movie of all time. i won’t belabor that point here, but any robbery of a vault that involves Clarence Gilyard Jr. freaking out like a schoolkid is going to do pretty well on my list.

the Dark Knight
some people aren’t inclined to take many things seriously, but a heist should be one of them

05. the multiple bank robbery in Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008)
another film (or films, even) that people around these parts may not have seen is “France’s Scarface,” or the two-part Mesrine saga consisting of Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One. in the former, Mesrine, who spends a lot of time committing various felonies in various nations, and a partner make a quick-and-to-the-point robbery of a Canadian bank, and then, as the bank’s calling the police, say “fuck it” and rob the bank across the street as well. nothing too fancy here, just an enjoyable heist that’s right to the point.

04. the bank robbery in the Dark Knight (2008)
i remember when this movie was in theaters, and i was hustling it to catch a showing of it, and the ticket-taking guy said, “it’s starting now, and you don’t want to miss the opening.” anyone who’s seen the film knows what he was referring to: the opening scene where the Joker and a band of clown-masked cronies rob a mob-controlled bank. it doesn’t really make a LOT of sense (sure, the Joker’s insane, but we don’t see him kill his underlings like this ever again), but i’ll be damned if it’s not really well executed.

03. the scene where… well, okay, the whole fucking movie of Heist (2001)
Heist should probably have been titled That Movie Mamet Wrote Where Guys Are Flip The Whole Time And Then All The Gold Is Stolen; there’s a fairly slick actual heisting of gold in the movie, but it’s so much of the film and so much of the film is an elaborate con that i don’t even want to try and separate it out. just enjoy all the dialogue (which i think we all know is Mamet’s thing) and the times when Gene Hackman still acted.

02. the silent half-hour burglary of the jewelry shop in Rififi (1955)
a lot of people i know won’t ever watch Rififi (it’s a black-and-white French movie from the 1950s), but those that have know the heist had to show up on here: Jules Dassin shoots a sequence in real time where the criminal characters cut their way into a first-floor jewelry shop and rob it in dead silence. this might not seem like the most exciting half-hour of film… but damn if it isn’t exceptionally well-done. just don’t try to watch it if you DEMAND action.

Heat
speed (and proper use of the bolt release) are key in situations like this

01. the bank robbery and massive shoot-out in Heat (1995)
a probably apocryphal story tells of a Special Forces instructor screening the sequence where Val Kilmer is firing at police officers in this massive shoot-out, reloading with exceptional speed and then continuing to shoot; it probably never happened (although maybe it did), but it certainly SHOULD have. Heat will always be the high-point of Michael Mann’s undying effort to tie intense, realistic action to drama, and this heist is not getting topped easily, not even by some magical adventure through the brain of an Irishman.

okay, that’ll do it for this week; maybe next week, some actual content? unlikely, but we’ll see!

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2 Responses to “you see me doin’ thrill-seeker liquor store holdups with a “born to lose” tattoo on my chest?”

  1. Greg Davis says:

    You might want to consider taking in “The Great Train Robbery” with Donald Sutherland, and for a humorous counterpoint, the gold heist in “After the Fox.”

  2. janklow says:

    i don’t know if i trust that Mr. X guy…

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