The Perfect Genre – An Homage To The Heist

I went and visited Della this weekend and we had one of our classic movie marathons. This weekend’s theme: Heist films.

We wanted to include some we didn’t have time for or couldn’t get a hold of (Sneakers, Thomas Crown Affair, Sugar and Spice). And we ended up including some that should not have qualified (thanks a lot, internet). But all in all it was a resounding success. So here’s the breakdown:

The Classic Heist (Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and The Italian Job (2003))

Ocean's Eleven takes the classic heist to a new level by amping up the number of heisters

The classic heist film has a few key elements. We begin with a first job – or in the case of Ocean’s Eleven, the end result, our main character getting out of prison. An essential heist element is justification for heisting. Danny Ocean is a criminal, but we later learn he has a non-criminal justification. Charlie Croker, of The Italian Job, has to get back at a former fellow who betrayed his crew. Which brings us to another heist element, the crew. We have to have several key players, each with defined roles – examples include the computer expert, the getaway driver, the explosives expert. Ocean’s Eleven adds more than average, but it also plays up the con man element of the heist. Several of the Ocean’s characters serve the team by pretending to be a variety of characters to finesse and finagle there way into their con.

Heists have to show you something you've never seen before. Like minis in the underground.

What else can I say about the classic heist? The characters ooze class. They are cool as cucumbers. We have to have a planning montage at some point in the movie where the point man explains to another character what the plan is. They have to run into an unexpected complication and adapt the plan (preferably once things are already under way, but often before). And even though we had that planning montage folks, we still have to be surprised by the actual plan. You thought you knew what was happening, but you had no idea. You have been classically heisted.

The Politcal Heist? (Three Kings (1999))

Ok, so it's not a montage, but they are planning!

Della argues that Three Kings is not a heist film. But I say, we have some lovable rogues (one or two of whom are suave), a plan, a plan that has to change, and a crap ton of stolen gold. If this isn’t a heist film, it’s certainly a variation on a theme (with a whole bunch of other themes thrown in). Plus it is all around well-acted, written, and filmed. Watch it if you haven’t already. And if you have, watch it again.

Not a Heist Film At All (Point Break (1991))

I'm not sure what good I can say about this movie. Other than it made me want to watch Bill and Ted again.

This film popped up on a list of best heist films that Della found on the internet. And while I’m glad that I now get more of the references from Hot Fuzz, this was in no way a heist film. The rogues were not the main characters. There was no planning. And there was almost no time spent on actual heists. This my friends was a Rouge Cop film. And it was also an example of why we should all be glad the 90s are over.

The heist film folks. You can see it popping out throughout film history. Most recently it was given a new twist in Inception (which we totally would have watched this weekend if it weren’t for the fact that I need a little Inception break folks. A short one. Then I can return to the world of classy criminals who like to make their plans in montage form. And work together).

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